MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – Philippine authorities have rescued three children from cybersex trafficking and arrested their mother just six days before the world celebrates Mother’s Day and despite coronavirus restrictions. This operation began with a referral from the Australian Federal Police.
Collaboration between Australian and Philippine law enforcement on this case demonstrates the effectiveness of the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) – of which International Justice Mission forms a part – as a model for an enhanced global response to cybersex trafficking of children.
AFP Detective Sergeant Graeme Marshall, the AFP Liaison Officer in Manila, stated, “International partnerships are critical to our combined efforts to protect children no matter where they live. The AFP and its international partners are working tirelessly to target anyone who seeks to exploit children, and we are not distracted by the demands of the COVID pandemic.”
The Caloocan City operation arrested a 41-year-old female suspect and ensured the safety of a 13-year-old boy and two girls aged 14 and 5, who are now receiving trauma-informed aftercare services. All three minors rescued were the children of the arrested suspect.
The siblings were allegedly forced to perform sexual acts on webcam for paying customers – a crime known as cybersex trafficking of children. While securing the area, operatives found evidence on the scene, including a mobile phone, desktop computer, webcam and cash together with remittance receipts.
In addition to international collaboration, this operation involved the various Philippine law enforcement teams working together, namely the Philippine National Police-Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATIPD), the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Human Trafficking Division (NBI-AHTRAD), the Caloocan City Social Welfare Department and Caloocan City Police Station.
Two of these teams are led by women who are mothers and they were moved by the rescue and arrest taking place in such proximity to Mother’s Day.
“As a mother, I could not quite comprehend why she (referring to suspect) would do this act to her own children,” said Atty. Janet Francisco of NBI-AHTRAD. “This just shows that criminally minded individuals will do whatever it takes to exploit minors for profit. But we as law enforcers will also do whatever it takes to apprehend erring individuals.”
PCol Sheila Portento of the police’s ATIPD said, “For me this is an early Mother’s Day present that money cannot buy. Despite the belief of some individuals that they can sell their children online for a profit, I still believe that there are other parents that hold true to their morals.”
“We are cheering on Philippine law enforcement for their determination to find children who are unsafe in lockdown and bring them to safety,” said Jacob Sarkodee, Interim Chief Executive, IJM Australia. “Given that Australians make up a large proportion of the online sex offenders paying to abuse these vulnerable children, it is encouraging to see Australian law enforcement partnering with Philippine authorities to see an end to cybersex trafficking.”
The Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as the Luxembourg Guidelines, prescribes the use of the term “child sexual abuse material” or “child sexual exploitation material” instead of “child pornography”, except when referencing the name of statute. Sexualised material that depicts or otherwise represents children is a representation, and a form, of child sexual abuse and should not be described as “pornography.”
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