COLLABORATION between local and international law enforcement is crucial to ensuring that the victims of online sexual exploitation receive justice, said an official of International Justice Mission (IJM).
Lawyer John Tanagho, field office director of the IJM in Cebu City, on Wednesday, June 13, said that a senior investigator from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Internet Child Exploitation division came all the way from abroad to the Regional Trial Court Branch 10 in Abuyog, Leyte, “to testify in court against a suspected online trafficker” who was arrested in the neighboring town of Mac Arthur late last year.
“We’re grateful for the support of the RCMP in this prosecution. That they traveled all the way to Leyte shows their deep commitment and professionalism,” added Tanagho.
IJM, a global organization that protects the poor from violence, said that Corporal Jared Clarke, accompanied by RCMP liaison officer Jay Schooley, arrived in Leyte last May 31, 2018, to authenticate the referral letter RCMP sent to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The referral letter to the local authorities led by PNP Women and Children Protection Center-Visayas Field Unit to investigate and conduct an entrapment operation against a certain Lorna (real name withheld because one of the victims is her daughter) who was caught in the act of offering to perform sex acts on her own eight-year-old daughter and livestream those acts from her home in McArthur, Leyte in November 10, 2017.
In a statement, IJP reported that Lorna allegedly “produced and transmitted sexually explicit images of children to foreigners overseas in exchange for money.”
The operation, participated by the Interagency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat)-Eastern Visayas, Leyte Provincial Police Office, Leyte WCPD, Leyte Provincial Public Safety Company, Department of Social Welfare and Development Office-Eastern Visayas, and the IJM, also led to the rescue of nine children, with ages ranging from two to nine years old, from online sexual exploitation.
Prior to the entrapment operation, Lorna allegedly told her online customers that she could abuse children of any age and that the children could perform whatever sex act the customer wanted until the children cried in pain, IJM said.
Meanwhile, the group said that Clarke’s court testimony also came four days after the arrest of Lorna’s spouse Lito (real name withheld) who, at the time of the operation, was still a councilor of one of the barangays in McArthur.
Lito, who was not present during the November operation, was served an arrest warrant by McArthur police on May 27, 2018.
The two were charged with qualified trafficking under Republic Act (RA) 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act as amended by RA 10364.
Staff Sergeant Scott Lambie of the Saskatchewan Integrated Child Exploitation Unit said that “it is an investigation like this which demonstrates the international and border-less nature of ICE (Internet Child Exploitation) investigations.”
Saskatchewan, a province in Western Canada, “is not immune to these horrific crimes,” Lambie said.
“Through our international ICE partners we can bring offenders to justice almost anywhere,” the Canadian police officer said in a statement.
“Corporal Clarke of our unit recently traveled to Leyte Island to testify at an ICE trial and conduct important child exploitation training locally. While in the Philippines, he also had the opportunity to meet with some rescued victims – a rare and rewarding experience. We want to thank our international partners for the work they continue to do to rescue victims and prosecute offenders,” Lambie added.
Online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) can cause severe psychological trauma to children and sometimes physical injuries, according to Rebelander Basilan, partnership development coordinator of IJM in Cebu City.
“Rescued victims of OSEC need many social services, including therapy and rehabilitation. OSEC victims would only be returned to the community after a comprehensive family home and risk assessment is conducted to confirm that the home is a safe place for the children and that they will no longer be sexually abused or exploited by their parents or relatives,” the group said.
As of May 2018, IJM has worked with the Philippine law enforcers on OSEC cases which led to the arrest of 135 suspected online child traffickers and the rescue of 319 victims around the country since 2011.
At least 35 accused have already been convicted for trafficking children into online sexual exploitation in the country, it said. (Ronald O. Reyes)