BILIRAN, THE PHILIPPINES – A case referral from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) regarding a perpetrator charged with child exploitation offences in Australia has led to the rescue of five children aged between 14 and 17 in the Philippines. Police also arrested five Filipino suspects for cybersex trafficking on 9 and 10 October.
“Today’s outcome shows the commitment of the AFP and our partners to combat transnational child sexual exploitation,” said Erica Merrin, Acting Commander of AFP South East Asia.
“The arrest of five alleged facilitators and rescue of five child victims by the Philippine National Police with the assistance of International Justice Mission and the AFP highlights the effectiveness of our approach.”
In addition to the five rescued victims, four other children – aged 10 months, 11 months, and two aged 2 – were removed as “at-risk” for assessment to determine if they, too, were victimised.
The rescues and arrests were made possible after PICACC gave the AFP referral to the Women and Children Protection Center – Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU), who then conducted further investigation to identify and locate Filipino traffickers linked to the Australian perpetrator. Their investigation indicated that the suspects, four of whom are sisters, offered eight minor girls for cybersex trafficking.
Members of the WCPC-VFU and provincial and municipal authorities, in coordination with International Justice Mission (IJM), carried out a series of entrapment and rescue operations in the province of Biliran in the past two days, arresting the five suspects – aged 22, 23, 26, 28, and 30 – at different locations.
On 9 October, operatives from the WCPC-VFU and local police units arrested a female suspect, Martha* (not her real name), at a Caibiran family residence, removing a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old from the home as “at-risk” girls. Police located two additional female suspects and one male suspect in Biliran, rescuing a 17-year-old and removing two more “at-risk” children (aged 2 years old and 11 months old). A fifth suspect later turned herself in at Caibiran Municipal Police Station.
On 10 October, four more victims in relation to the same case were found and rescued. All the rescued children are now in the care of Philippine social services and are receiving trauma-informed interventions.
IJM Cebu’s Field Office Director, John Tanagho, was positive about these united efforts to end cybersex trafficking.
“Once again, international collaboration and foreign law enforcement referrals led to the rescue of sexually exploited children and the restraint of those traffickers who are so willing to sacrifice the innocence of children for easy cash,” he said.
Caroly Houmes, Chief Executive of IJM Australia, emphasised the need for Australians to take a stand against cybersex trafficking.
“Unfortunately Australians are fuelling demand for cybersex trafficking, yet together we can end this and are taking steps to do so. It begins with public awareness and ordinary people mobilising to say this abuse of children is not okay.
This in turn provides support for strengthening Australian laws such as the NSW Modern Slavery Act and online abuse laws currently before federal Parliament. More can be done, but already there is hope.”
Police at a rescue scene.
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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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