CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/12 May) – For operating a cybersex den and posting pictures of naked Filipinas on the Internet, two Swedish nationals were sentenced on Wednesday by a local court here to life imprisonment.
Judge Jeoffre Acebido, of the Misamis Oriental Regional Trial court branch 41, found Swedish nationals Bo Stefan Sederholm, 31, and Emil Andreas Solemo, 35, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of selling nine Filipinas through their accounts at www.livejasmin.com.
“Disrespect for our women and violations of our laws deserve the strongest condemnation from this court,” Acebido said in his 24-page decision.
Aside from life imprisonment, Acebido also fined the two Swedish nationals P2 million each.
“This court will not shrink from its duty to impose the most severe of penalties against anybody, be he a foreign national of a citizen of this country, who tramples upon the dignity of a woman by taking advantage of her vulnerability,” the court said.
The court also sentenced their three Filipino co-accused identified as Andrea Galdones Romero, Aminoding Lomangcolcob Rangaig and Arvy Pablo Baylon to 20 years imprisonment and fines up to P1 million each.
The case is the first major conviction in Cagayan de Oro City invoking Republic Act 9208 otherwise known as “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.”
Police arrested the Swedish nationals and their co-accused during a raid on a suspected cybersex den in Kauswagan highway on April 23, 2009. Seventeen women were found naked while chatting with foreign clients on the Internet.
Nine of the women were convinced by the police, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Gabriela (a non-government organization advocating women’s rights), to file criminal charges against the suspects.
For their defense, the two Swedish nationals said the Filipinas were “fully aware” that their jobs were performing in front of the video cameras for their international clients.
Sederholm and Solemo also said, through their lawyers, that they were illegally arrested by the police and sought for the dismissal of the charges.
But the court said the two suspects took advantage of the poverty of the women when they offered them jobs to undress before the video cameras.
The court also said the police officers were not guilty of committing human rights violations because the acts of the crime were ongoing when they raided the apartments.
According to one of the complainants, the Swedish nationals used the name of an NGO called the “Mindanao Peace Movement” as cover for their operations, using this group’s names in their signboards outside the cybersex dens. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)