62 minors saved from human traffickers

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Sunday, February 9, 2014


CEBU CITY -- At least 105 suspects in human trafficking cases have been arrested since the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force-Central Visayas started operating five years ago.

The group has also rescued 582 victims, 62 of them minors, including those involved in cybersex operations.

The youngest victim they rescued was a two-year-old girl, said Senior Superintendent Maria Theresa Macatangay, who leads the task force, in a phone interview. The oldest one rescued was in her 30s.

“I wish we could have the technology that would trace those who operate (cybersex dens), then we could even have more arrests,” said Macatangay.

Majority of the task force’s operations focused on Cebu City.

These included the rescue of 43 women and arrest of six alleged pimps during a simultaneous entrapment in two bars on Gen. Maxilom Ave., Cebu City, the task force’s largest sex-trafficking crackdown in 2013.

The joint operation took place in Club Temptation and Pussycat at 11 p.m. and led to the rescue of more than 10 minors.

Macatangay said the operatives raided the bars after the police decoys gave P3,000 cash to the pimps, supposedly in exchange for sex.

The police official added that the operation stemmed from information they received that these two bars were prostituting women, aside from being nightclubs.

The task force has acted not only against actual sexual exploitation, but the kind that takes place online.

In Cordova last September, some minors aged 2, 9 and 11 were rescued and their parents, Dionisio Inoc and Maricel Ayad, were arrested.

The suspects allegedly let their children pose suggestively for clients on the Internet.

Macatangay said that was one of their biggest operations and the one where they rescued a two-year-old girl.

She clarified, however, that the Philippines is not the center of cybercrime in Asia, and that such crimes have also been reported in Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“I would like to clarify that yes, cybersex exists in our country but it is not a prevalent crime,” Macatangay said.

She also admitted the task force lacks technological equipment in detecting cybercrime operations, which usually take place in the privacy of people’s homes.

Macatangay said that the task force relies mostly on classic investigation techniques, like putting suspects under surveillance and conducting entrapments once they have enough basis.

“I do not know what technology is needed to make these people (cybercriminals) traceable, but I wish we could have some gadget for this,” she said.

Macatangay also commended the Anti-Cybercrime Group for recently arresting two women who allegedly operating a call center for a mail-order-bride operation.

The home-operated center used a dating website, on which were posted sexy pictures of Filipinas.

The arrest happened last week in a subdivision in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City.

Macatangay said that those apprehended in their operations were usually charged with violating Republic Act 9208 or the law against trafficking in persons. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 10, 2014.

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