Case Digest: People v. Hashim, et al.

G.R. No. 194255 : June 13, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. NURFRASIR HASHIM y SARABAN a.k.a "FRANZ/FRANS," MAKDUL JAMAD y BUKIN (AL) a.k.a. "MACKY," a certain "TAS," and a certain "JUN," Accused, BERNADETTE PANSACALA a.k.a. "Neneng Awid," Accused-Appellant.



On 10 March 2004, accused-appellant was charged for illegal recruitment after she promised overseas employment, particularly in Brunei and Malaysia, to AAA and BBB without having any license or authority to enage in the recruitment and deployment of overseas workers from the POEA.

Only accused-appellant and Nurfrasir Hashim were arrested, and both entered a plea of "not guilty" when arraigned.

Private complainants AAA and BBB, Police Chief Inspector Ronald Aonuevo, and police officers Edmond Ranel Villareal and Renato Rabuya dela Pea were presented by the prosecution as witnesses.

Based on their testimonies, accused-appellant encouraged AAA to work in Malaysia, as accused-appellant knew certain persons who would soon be leaving for that country. The next day, BBB was visited by accused-appellant and invited her to work as a saleslady in Brunei. Both accepted the invitation.

Later, AAA and BBB, Cristy and a certain CCC (both recruits) met with co-accused Makdul Amad y Bukin a.k.a. "Macky" (Macky) and a certain "Jun," at Paseo de Zamboanga. Thereafter, they boarded the M/V Grand Flora and were given pieces of paper containing a name. Franz, accused-appellant Bernadette and a certain Titing did not board the boat.

On June 17, 2003, at 6:00 olock in the morning, they arrived at Lahad Datu and soon boarded a van going to Samporna, Malaysia where they met accused Macky cousin named Pat. Accused Franz then distributed to AAA, BBB, CCC and Cristy their respective passports.

Upon reaching Labuan, Malaysia on June 21, 2003, accused Franz instructed BBB, AAA, CCC and Cristy to wear "sexy clothes" because they were going to meet their supposed boss named Bunso at Cape Imperial located at Labuan, Malaysia.

The prosecution alleged that while the group was staying at the Classic Hotel in Labuan, BBB was forced on numerous occasions to have sexual intercourse with Franz at his bidding, even in the presence of other people. She followed his orders for fear that he would inflict physical harm on her.

At first, private complainants were not aware of the circumstances surrounding their employment at the Golden Lotus. It was only after they agreed to stay there for employment that they were forced to become sex workers to earn money and pay off the debts they incurred from their travel from Zamboanga City to Labuan, Malaysia. Thus, from 21 June 2003 to 13 July 2003, AAA and BBB worked as prostituted women.

On 12 July 2003, BBB had a customer who was a law enforcer at Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. She sought his help for her return to the Philippines, and he agreed. The following day, the Golden Lotus was raided by the Immigration Officers of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, and the prostituted Filipino women, including AAA and BBB, were detained at the Balay Polis (Police Department) in Labuan until all the women were deported to the Philippines.

Accused-appellant denied having offered BBB a job in Malaysia, a denial corroborated by Majujie Jailya Misuari. Accused-appellant also denied knowing AAA and Franz. She claimed that she only met AAA when the latter, together with BBB, visited her in jail and offered to withdraw the case if accused-appellant would give them money. Co-accused Franz merely denied knowing AAA, BBB or accused-appellant.

On 27 June 2008, after trial on the merits, the RTC of Zamboanga City rendered a Decision finding both accused Nurfrasir Hashim and Bernadette Pansacala guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of illegal recruitment as principals by direct participation, committed by a syndicate. Each of said accused were sentenced to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P 1,000,000.00 each;and to pay each of the above victims P 50,000.00 as moral damages; P 300,000.00 as exemplary damages, and to pay the costs.

On appeal, the CA affirmed the findings of fact of the trial court in the former assailed Decision, but modified the award of damages by reducing the exemplary damages to P 25,000.00 each.

ISSUE: Whether or not Hashim and Pansacala are guilty of illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate?

HELD: The appeal is unmeritorious.


To be convicted of the crime of illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate, the following elements must occur:
1. The accused have no valid license or authority required by law to enable them to lawfully engage in the recruitment and placement of workers.

2. The accused engaged in this activity of recruitment and placement by actually recruiting, deploying and transporting.

3. Illegal recruitment was committed by three persons conspiring and confederating with one another.
As to the first element, accused-appellant admitted that she did not have a valid license to recruit persons for overseas employment, consistent with her defense that she did not engage in the recruitment of persons for employment.

Anent the second element, both victims, AAA and BBB, narrated in great detail how they were induced by accused-appellant to accept an employment opportunity, and how they were successfully transported from Zamboanga City to Malaysia where they eventually worked as prostituted women.

On the third element, accused-appellant posits that the prosecution failed to prove that there were more than two persons involved in the alleged crime of illegal recruitment, since the trial court held only two of the accused liable for the crime. The prosecution, she alleges, failed to establish that the other accused Macky, Jun, and Tas also had no license or authority to recruit workers for overseas employment.

In the recent case People v. Lalli,the Court affirmed the trial court findings in which 2 of the 3 accused were convicted of illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate, even though the third accused was at-large. In so ruling, the Court took note of the fact that the victim would not have been able to go to Malaysia were it not for the concerted efforts of the three accused. It was thus held:

Flight in criminal law is the evading of the course of justice by voluntarily withdrawing oneself in order to avoid arrest or detention or the institution or continuance of criminal proceedings. The unexplained flight of an accused person may as a general rule be taken into consideration as evidence having a tendency to establish his guilt. Clearly, in this case, the flight of accused Relampagos, who is still at-large, shows an indication of guilt in the crimes he has been charged.

It is clear that through the concerted efforts of Aringoy, Lalli and Relampagos, Lolita was recruited and deployed to Malaysia to work as a prostitute. Such conspiracy among Aringoy, Lalli and Relampagos could be deduced from the manner in which the crime was perpetrated each of the accused played a pivotal role in perpetrating the crime of illegal recruitment, and evinced a joint common purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest.

In the case at bar, the prosecution was similarly able to establish that accused-appellant Bernadette and Franz were not the only ones who had conspired to bring the victims to Malaysia. It was also able to establish at the very least, through the credible testimonies of the witnesses, that (1) Jun and Macky were the escorts of the women to Malaysia; (2) a certain Tash was their financier; (3) a certain Bunso negotiated with Macky for the price the former would pay for the expenses incurred in transporting the victims to Malaysia; and (4) Mommy Cindy owned the prostitution house where the victims worked. The concerted efforts of all these persons resulted in the oppression of the victims.

Clearly, it was established beyond reasonable doubt that accused-appellant, together with at least two other persons, came to an agreement to commit the felony and decided to commit it. It is not necessary to show that two or more persons met together and entered into an explicit agreement laying down the details of how an unlawful scheme or objective is to be carried out. Conspiracy may be deduced from the mode and manner in which the offense was perpetrated; or from the acts of the accused evincing a joint or common purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest.


The Court increased the award of moral damages from P 50,000.00 to P500,000 each and also that of the exemplary damages from P 25,000.00 each to P100,000.00 when it found that the crime of Trafficking in Persons as a prostitute was committed.

On 12 May 2003, Congress passed R.A. 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. This law was approved on 26 May 2003. Ironically, only a few days after, private complainants found themselves in a situation that this law had sought to prevent.

In Lalli, the Court increased the amount of moral and exemplary damages from P 50,000 to P 500,000 and from P 50,000 to P 100,000, respectively, having convicted the accused therein of the crime of trafficking in persons.

The payment of P 500,000 as moral damages and P 100,000 as exemplary damages for the crime of Trafficking in Persons as a Prostitute finds basis in Article 2219 of the Civil Code, which states:
Art. 2219. Moral damages may be recovered in the following and analogous cases:
x x x
(3) Seduction, abduction, rape, or other lascivious acts;
x x x
The criminal case of Trafficking in Persons as a Prostitute is an analogous case to the crimes of seduction, abduction, rape, or other lascivious acts. In fact, it is worse. To be trafficked as a prostitute without one consent and to be sexually violated four to five times a day by different strangers is horrendous and atrocious. There is no doubt that Lolita experienced physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, and social humiliation when she was trafficked as a prostitute in Malaysia. Since the crime of Trafficking in Persons was aggravated, being committed by a syndicate, the award of exemplary damages is likewise justified.

There is no legal impediment to increasing the award of moral and exemplary damages in the case at bar. Neither is there any logical reason to differentiate between the victims herein and those in that case, when the circumstances are frighteningly similar. To do so would be to say that we discriminate one from the other, when all of these women have been the victims of unscrupulous people who capitalized on the poverty of others. While it is true that accused-appellant was not tried and convicted of the crime of trafficking in persons, this Court based its award of damages on the Civil Code, and not on the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, as clearly explained in Lalli.