BAGUIO CITY – An American national was convicted by a local court to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and pay the fine of P2 million after being found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of qualified human trafficking in persons.
However, Judge Mona Liza Teongson Tabora of the Regional Trial court (RTC) Branch 7 dismissed another count of qualified trafficking in persons and a separate charge of sexual abuse which were simultaneously filed against the foreigner.
In a 20-page decision, Judge Tabora ordered David Wayne Stonecypher to pay the accessory fine of P2 million as well as pay his 15-year old victim the amount of P500,000 as moral damages and another P100,000 as exemplary damages and for him to pay the cost of litigation among others.
The case stemmed from the complaint of two minors, a 17-year old male and a 15-year old male both from Bislig city, Surigao del Sur, who were promised shelter, clothing and education and subsequently transported from their place to the city but ended up being allegedly abused by the foreigner.
At the outset, the American national raised the defense of denial which the Supreme Court (SC has time and again ruled to be the weakest of all defences.
“The Supreme Court held that denial is a negative, self-serving evidence that cannot prevail over a positive and categorical assertion of a credible witness that accused perpetrated the crime,” the decision stated.
The court noted the accused tried hard to discredit the 15-year old male victim to the extent of paying a clinical psychologist whose credentials occupied no less than 16 pages of her judicial affidavit. He even secured the appearance of witness who had to fly all the way from Bislig City to testify that the victim, his friend from childhood, is a liar who could not be trusted.
The court cited that the victim testified five times just to complete his direct examination at the bail hearings and even after a rigorous cross examination, he maintained his version of the events that lead to the filing of the cases against the foreigner. He never wavered in his testimony when he was recalled to the witness stand twice.
The decision pointed out the fact that he could remember even the minutiae details indicated that he was relating from his own experience, thus, the court found his testimony credible, hence, worthy of belief despite the admitted fact that he signed at least two affidavits of desistance both retracting the contents of his sworn statement.
Besides, the court stated that well settled is the rule that retractions are regarded as generally unreliable and are looked upon with disfavour.
The court stipulated that the suspect should also be adjudged liable for moral and exemplary damages of P500,000 and P100,000, respectively in line with the ruling in several jurisprudence.
As to the charge of sexual abuse, while the court cannot discount the possibility that because the suspect used a lubricant, the victim in reality did not sustain any palpable injury to his anus although the foreigner tried to sodomize him which could explain why physicians did not find any sign of fissures or bleeding, still there is also the same possibility that the lack of any obvious injury was because no sexual contact actually occurred. Thus, the court resolved to rule in favour of the accused in the said case of sexual abuse because as correctly pointed out in the Joint Memorandum for the acquittal of the accused and as held by the SC.
The court dismissed the similar charge of qualified trafficking in persons filed by the 17-year old companion of the 15-year old victim for insufficiency of evidence against the suspect.
The case was allegedly committed by the suspect sometime in March 2007 and was just recently resolved.
By Dexter A. See