Around 11am Saturday 15 September, operatives from the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC)–Visayas Field Unit (VFU) arrested Australian John Loffler, 69 and Filipino Gladys Degala, 21, during an arrest operation at a house Loffler rented in an upscale subdivision in the municipality of Pavia, Iloilo Province, Philippines.
Over two months of investigations by WCPC-VFU reveal that Loffler and Degala allegedly operated an illicit business where they transmitted dozens of sexually explicit videos and images of young Filipino children in exchange for money from individuals online. Degala reportedly demanded 3,000 Philippine pisos (A$77), for sexually explicit photos of victims as young as 12 years old.
According to police, Degala sent sexually explicit images of a 12-year-old girl and a sexually explicit video involving a 15-year-old girl. These 12- and 15- year-old girls are victims of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC), also known as cybersex trafficking. OSEC victims are often forced to perform sexually explicit acts in front of a camera—sometimes in a live-stream video—for paying customers residing around the world.
Both suspects are now detained at the Pavia Municipal Police Station. Police and Iloilo Provincial social workers are still looking for the victims at the time of writing. During the operation, authorities seized electronics, including storage devices, believed to be used by the suspects as they engaged in cybersex trafficking.
Caroly Houmes of IJM Australia commented, “In cases like this, cybersex crime is a form of trafficking, where vulnerable and often young children are exploited in source countries such as the Philippines. Unfortunately, Australia is one of the countries that drives demand. To ensure the safety of these children, arrests like these are crucial. Hopefully it serves as a warning signal to other (would be) perpetrators. We are grateful for the international collaboration that exists to combat this crime.”
This arrest brings to light again the devastating input Australians can have in this crime against children. We hope this situation urges the Australian government to continue the movement it began at the end of 2017 with the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2017 (Cth). If passed this Bill will result in some of the most significant reforms to child sex offender laws in Australia. It includes measures like increased penalties for certain child sex offences, the removal of the presumption in favour of bail and a new offence that criminalises the running of a website containing child exploitation material. The Bill was introduced to Parliament in September 2017, and in October 2017 it was referred to a Senate committee for inquiry. Since this time progress on the Bill has stalled.
IJM Cebu Field Office Director Attorney John Tanagho commended the police for the successful anti-cybersex trafficking operation.
“Some individuals think they can get away with exploiting Filipino children and selling sexually explicit materials of children online. Maybe to them, the Filipino child is not worthy of respect and dignity, but simply a means to make easy money,” he said.
“But, law enforcement in the Philippines is relentlessly pursuing investigations against online traffickers and rescuing their victims as quickly as possible. And thanks to the diligent coordinated efforts of six government agencies, led by PNP-WCPC, both suspects arrested today in Ilo-Ilo are now behind bars and face serious criminal charges.” Tanagho said.
As at 31 July 2018, IJM has supported law enforcement agencies in 106 operations that led to the arrest of 151 suspects and the rescue of 365 victims. Forty of the accused have been convicted for trafficking children into online sexual exploitation in the Philippines.
IJM is a global organisation that protects the poor from violence by partnering with local authorities to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.
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International Justice Mission is a global organisation that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.Find out more