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Blue House trial starts

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Opening statements presented

OPENING statements yesterday kicked off the trial of the two police officers implicated in the Blue House prostitution case.

“Protect and serve, that’s what the police officers should do. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the evidence will show this is not what happened here. The evidence will show that these police officers victimized and exploited some of the members of our society,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Quan told the jurors during his opening statement.

The prosecution spent 36 minutes telling the members of the jury how the nine young women from Chuuk, ages 18 to 25 years old, were recruited to work as prostitutes at the Blue House lounge.

According to Quan, prior to 2006, Blue House workers were allowed to go home. But when Song Ja Cha, who owned another bar called Cha-cha Club, decided to expand the lounge and create a VIP room, the employee rules changed.

He narrated how the girls were told not to bring clothes and were instead required to wear indecent clothes. He said the girls were given stage names, were forced to drink, and were forced to turn in their passports.

Quan also said the female workers were locked up and only Cha had the key to the establishment that served as the work place and residence of the recruited Chuuk girls.

The girls were told to “make their customers happy” and for a $40 drink, customers can do whatever they want with the workers including sex, Quan said.

“And if the girls refuse, Cha will warn them that she would call her friends to arrest them,” Quan added.

Quan said the friends who Cha was referring to were police officers David Manila, Anthony Quenga and Anthony Laxamana.

To reinforce that they will be arrested, Cha would introduce the police officers to the workers and would threaten the girls with arrest in front of the policemen.

Forced

Manila, who earlier testified having sex with one of the victims, was also mentioned as the one who “forced” himself on one of the female workers inside the VIP room.

But Manila’s attorney, Terence Timblin, told the jury that the story of the female from Chuuk is a family affair wherein the main recruiter brought four of his daughters to work at Blue House.

“They were not deceived nor duped that they will work in the bar. They were aware of what kind of job they will do. Evidence will show that they had freedom to go back and forth. They were given a break, and when they came back from Chuuk, they were picked up from the airport by their relatives and not by Song Ja Cha,” Timblin stressed.

The defense lawyer said Manila and Quenga were used as “props” by Cha to instill fear in the girls, but there was no evidence that the policemen stood as guards for Cha and no evidence that they tried to intimidate the workers.

“They had nothing to do with the prostitution. They have nothing to gain to engage in the prostitution,” he added.

Quenga’s lawyer, Sylvia Stake, described the claim as Cha’s clever way of enforcing her rules by mentioning her connection with the policemen.

Stake said the girls all came from poor families and all had the desire to work to help their families back in Chuuk.

“They may not like the job, but it’s a job,” Stake said.

She added that Cha would bring the girls to beauty salons, the movies, restaurants, and to the Hilton hotel. “It’s a great place to be punished,” the defense counsel added.

Stake also said there was evidence that the girls were paid and they sent money back to their families in Chuuk.

The defense also denied that the girls were not allowed to go anywhere, saying there were workers who left because they went to their boyfriends and got pregnant.

The defense stressed that the conspiracy charges do not stick because the defendants have no control over the victims.

Witnesses

For the first day of trial, the government attorney called Marissa Manibusan and her husband Tomas Manibusan, a police officer.

The two narrated what transpired on the night of Jan. 13, 2008 that led to the raid of the Blue House.

Manibusan said she went to the lounge with her cousin Elizabeth Isao with one of the victims who complained that her passport was being held by Cha.

Cha was initially interrogated and the victims eventually told police they were being held against their will.

Officer Manibusan called for investigators to take a look at the lounge where they discovered a female inside a room half-naked with an individual without pants.

The cross-examination of Officer Manibusan will continue Friday at 1:30 p.m. as lawyers and judges need to attend the yearly District Conference of Federal Court.

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