child abuse in the Philippines

Minor victim drops out but DOJ to pursue child abuse case vs Spanish man

Lian Buan

DOJ. This file photo shows the Department of Justice building.

Rappler

Spanish national Franco Sanchez is charged with 10 counts of child abuse, and 1 count of child pornography – all bailable for P2.2 million

The Philippine government through the Department of Justice (DOJ) will pursue child abuse and child pornography charges against a Spanish national for sexually assaulting and recording a 15-year-old Filipino girl, even though the minor victim had already dropped out of the case.

Francisco Manuel Sanchez, 36, has been charged by the DOJ for 10 counts of child abuse and 1 count of child pornography and has been ordered arrested by the Taguig Regional Trial Court.

However, he has yet to pay his P2.2-million bail, so he is detained at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) facilities in the meanwhile.

“He is being detained at the Bureau of Immigration Detention Center for two reasons: he did not post bail and the pendency of deportation proceedings,” said justice undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, spokesperson of the DOJ.

Villar said that the minor victim had already filed her affidavit of desistance, meaning she would drop out of the complaint. Sanchez had also filed his motion to dismiss.

“The prosecution will oppose the said motion,” said Villar, meaning the prosecution will pursue the case.

In criminal cases, the prosecution has the discretion to pursue a case even if the private complainant opts out. Eventually, it would be up to the judge to rule if other witnesses or other proof would be sufficient.

The House of Representatives had just passed House Bill No. 7386, which seeks to amend the anti-child abuse law (Republic Act No. 7610) and raise the age of statutory rape to 16 years old. The bill would also disallow affidavit of desistance at any point of proceedings for crimes of rape.

Its counterpart, Senate Bill No. 2332, which also passed the upper chamber, does not have the desistance clause. It is now in the bicameral conference committee to reconcile the two bills.

“This is why we need to amend the law,” said the Gabriela Women’s Party in a tweet reacting to the news.

Bailable

Under the current RA 7610, it is only rape when the victim is below 12 years old. Rape would have been non-bailable.

Sanchez was charged under Section 5b of RA 7610, which is “the act of sexual intercourse of lascivious conduct with a child exploited in prostitution or subject to other sexual abuse.”

Penalty of Section 5b ranges from reclusion temporal (12-20 years) to reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years).

A provision with a penalty of reclusion perpetua would have also been non-bailable.

But the DOJ’s bail bond guide has a recommended P200,000 bail for violation of Section 5b under RA 7610, which is what the DOJ followed.

Sanchez was charged with one count of violation of Section 4a of the anti-child pornography law or RA 9775, or “hiring, employing, using, persuading, inducing, or coercing a child to perform in the creation or production of any form of child pornography.” It is also bailable, worth P200,000.

Syndicated child pornography would have been the non-bailable offense, but it is defined as a crime “carried out by a group of three or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another.”

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Dean Cheves

The minor is the same complainant against 61-year-old American diplomat Dean Cheves, who the Philippines is trying to extradite over the same charges as Sanchez.

Cheves is accused of assaulting the victim when she was just 12 or 13 years old.

Sanchez is set to be arraigned on October 15, pending ruling on the desistance, but Villar said “there is no court setting yet for the similar case filed against Dean Cheves.” A warrant of arrest has also been issued against Cheves.

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia in the United States has already indicted Cheves for one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and one count of possessing child pornography in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. It’s over the same incident.

Cheves served the US foreign service and was based in Manila from September 2020 to February 2021. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.