MANILA, PHILIPPINES – On 20 July 2020, a woman who offered her then 6-year-old niece and other children for in-person sexual exploitation was sentenced to life imprisonment. She was also found guilty of producing and distributing child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM) online.
In a decision handed down via videoconferencing, the accused (identity withheld to protect the victims, one of whom is her own niece) was convicted and sentenced to reclusion perpetua* – similar to a life sentence but with additional restrictions.
She was also ordered to pay 2.15 million pesos (about A$60,000) in fines and damages.
Upon hearing about the conviction, the 10-year old girl survivor wrote,
There is some happiness and sadness when I learned that my aunt was imprisoned. What I’m learning here in the Center is that no one can touch my body. And I am also happy that my aunt is learning from what she has done to me.
She was only 6 years old when rescued and 8 years old when she bravely testified against the accused inside the judge’s chambers.
IJM Manila Special Counsel for Legal Intervention, Atty. Kathleen Piccio said, “Once again, justice and truth have prevailed in the war against the online sexual expoitation of children (OSEC). Indeed, an effective criminal justice system will always give rise to perpetrator accountability, create deterrence, and protect not only the children rescued, like that brave little girl who survived and fought hard for justice in this case, but also countless others who will never be abused.”
This case of cybersex trafficking of children began as a referral received from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation by the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center – Anti Trafficking in Persons Division (PNP-WCPC-ATIPD). Investigations led to the accused’s arrest on 16 August 2016 where three children (aged 4 to 6 at the time) were rescued.
The accused had been instructing the children to undress and show private parts before a camera. The accused offered these CSEM for paying customers online. She also offered the children for in-person exploitation.
“These convictions play a significant role in the restoration and healing of the survivors. We are grateful for our partners in prosecution for their ongoing work despite the difficulties during this unprecedented season.” said Atty. Reynaldo Bicol, Field Office Director of IJM Manila.
All the survivors are safe under the supervision of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and have been receiving trauma-informed interventions.
This is the second cybersex trafficking conviction that IJM as supported during the COVID-19 lockdown, the first being that of US offender David Timothy Deakin.
Reclusion perpetua is a criminal penalty imposed for crimes under the revised penal code in the Philippines, which carries a fixed 40-year term of imprisonment. Neither parole nor pardon are available until 30 years have been served, and the perpetrator is barred from holding public office. In contrast, a life sentence is imposed for crimes under special criminal laws, does not prevent a perpetrator from standing for office, and parole is possible at any point.
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.”
*Header image is a stock photo and does not depict a survivor or IJM client.
Learn more about cybersex trafficking of children here.
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