Monday 25 May 2020
BUTUAN CITY, MINDANAO, THE PHILIPPINES – The Australian Federal Police and Philippine law enforcement continued their effective collaboration, rescuing 12 children and a teenager from cybersex trafficking last Thursday. It follows similar operations on 4 and 14 May, both of which began with an AFP tip-off.
At around 9am on Thursday 21 May, operatives from the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center – Mindanao Field Unit (WCPC-MFU) arrested a 28-year-old woman at her neighbour’s house in Butuan City, after she was caught offering to livestream the sexual abuse of four minors and one adult for a paying online sex offender. She had also offered to further sexually abuse minors and livestream it in exchange for more money. At a different location, police rescued two more victims who had earlier been identified by the AFP during their separate investigation of an Australian sex offender in Australia.
Six other minors were brought to safety because they were found in the company of the suspect and the victims offered for livestreamed sexual exploitation. They will undergo assessment to determine if they, too, were victims. The victims and at-risk children are family members, relatives and neighbours of the suspected trafficker.
The police operation stemmed from a case referral made by the AFP to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC), a cooperation among local and international law enforcement, in partnership with non-government organisation, International Justice Mission (IJM).
Investigation by Australian police revealed that the Australian suspect was in contact with a female trafficker in the Philippines who would produce and send him new child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM) – new videos, photos and livestreams of children sexually violated — in exchange for money.
“The outcome [on Thursday] further highlights the effectiveness of the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre and continued international partnerships in place to combat child exploitation and protect children,” said Federal Agent Paul Onken, Australian Federal Police Philippines.
“We celebrate that these 13 lives are now safe from cybersex trafficking and that the victims can begin their journey to restoration,” said Jacob Sarkodee, IJM Australia’s Interim Chief Executive. “We celebrate the commitment of Australian and Philippine law enforcement to seeing an end to this transnational crime. Together, we can end cybersex trafficking of children.”
The operatives searched the suspect’s residence and seized electronic devices and money transfer receipts, among other evidence. Incidentally, firearms were also found in the house. The suspect’s male live-in partner was arrested for illegal possession of firearms.
Authorities had, on 4 May, rescued 3 children in Caloocan City, arresting their mother. On 14 May, authorities rescued three children in a separate operation in Angeles, arresting the mother of two of the children who was also stepmother to the third.
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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.
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