Clarification on the Plea of Guilty to a Lesser Offense under R.A. No. 9208 ("Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003") ( DOJ Department Circular No. 31-06 )

June 13, 2006

June 13, 2006


TO : All Regional State Prosecutors, Provincial and City Prosecutors and their Assistants, State Prosecutors and Prosecution Attorneys
SUBJECT : Clarification on the Plea of Guilty to a Lesser Offense under Republic Act No. 9208, otherwise known as the "Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003" 


It has come to the attention of the Department that two (2) cases filed before the court for violation of Section 4 (e) (Maintain or hire a person to engage in prostitution or pornography) of R.A. No. 9208 have resulted in the conviction of the accused, not as charged, but for violation of Section 11 (Use of Trafficked Persons) after the accused were allowed to withdraw the earlier plea of not guilty to the original charge and enter a plea of guilty to Section 11, an offense punishable with a lower penalty.

While Section 2, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure allows the accused to enter a plea of guilty to a lesser offense with the consent of the offended party and the prosecutor, such lesser offense must be necessarily included in the offense charged. The act of trafficking — meaning the recruitment, transportation, transfer or harboring, provision, or receipt of persons, through whatever means — for the purpose of exploitation, the gravamen of the offense punishable under Section 4 of R.A. No. 9208, cannot and should not be ignored in favor of an expedient plea of guilty for Use of Trafficked Persons under Section 11 of the said law. Section 11 is meant to address the demand side of trafficking in persons by penalizing those who buy or engage the services of a trafficked person for prostitution. On the other hand, Section 4 punishes those responsible for the act of trafficking. Allowing said plea does not only constitute a misapprehension of the provisions of R.A. No. 9208 and the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, but would also result in injustice to the victims of trafficking. cTDECH

In the interest of justice and consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Amatan vs. Aujero, 248 SCRA 511 (1995), all trial prosecutors handling trafficking in persons cases are hereby directed to immediately and vehemently object to or strongly oppose a plea of guilty to a lower offense under Section 11 (Use of Trafficked Persons) when the accused was originally charged for violation of Section 4 (Acts of Trafficking in Persons), or Section 4 in relation to Section 6 (Qualified Trafficking), or Section 5 (Acts that Promote Trafficking in Persons) of R.A. No. 9208.

For your guidance and strict compliance.

(SGD.) RAUL M. GONZALEZSecretaryDepartment of Justice