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Conviction milestone reached in the Philippines

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – International Justice Mission is celebrating more than 100 convictions obtained by government prosecutors in online sexual exploitation of children cases. This milestone was achieved at the beginning of October 2020 with support from IJM legal teams.

These consolidated convictions are a testament to the tireless commitment of law enforcers and public prosecutors who rise up to the challenge brought about by quarantine measures and health risks associated with COVID-19 exposure.

To date, IJM records 103 convictions, working hand-in-hand with government prosecution partners, local and foreign law enforcers in ending the online sexual exploitation of children, also known as cybersex trafficking of children.

Here are three of the most recent convictions:

17 September, Taguig

Two accused female traffickers were convicted and sentenced in a plea bargain to 15 years imprisonment with a fine of 500,000 pesos (almost A$15,000) each.

The case had started from simultaneous rescue and entrapment operations in March of this year. These were led by the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) with remote assistance from IJM. As a result, one four-year-old male and two females aged 9 and 2 years were rescued. The children are all related to one of the female suspects – two of them being her own children and the other one her cousin.

29 September, Manila

The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment of acquittal by a decision made by the Manila Regional Trial Court involving a Japanese man and two local conspirators who were arrested during an entrapment operations in one of the hotel establishments in Manila five years ago. The three were involved in taking videos of five Filipino children in various sex acts.

6 October, Biliran

Four women pleaded guilty to charges relating to the online sexual exploitation of five children. They had been arrested on 9 October 2019 in an entrapment operation led by the Women and Children Protection Center – Mindanao Field Unit (WCPC-MFU) with the support of IJM Cebu.

Prosecuting the said case proved to be a challenge for the public prosecutor because the arrests were made before the lockdown measures were implemented. As the worldwide pandemic hit the Visayas region, numerous hurdles had to be overcome to pursue the case as quarantine measures were strictly observed. In order to establish a smooth work around for the case to move forward, the defence and prosecution agreed to conduct a face-to-face trial to ensure that justice moved forward for the sake of the victims. A plea bargain was eventually reached.

IJM’s Cebu Field Office Director, Atty. Lucille Dejito added, “The conviction of the four online traffickers in the Biliran case marks the 103rd OSEC conviction to date in the cases that IJM had the privilege to work alongside our dedicated government prosecution partners. This speaks a lot of the increasing capacity of the government not only to successfully investigate OSEC cases but also bring traffickers to justice thereby protecting more children from this kind of violence. Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, the wheels of justice are still turning, and this conviction is a light of hope for children who are still out there waiting for rescue to come.”

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