Cordova cops arrest foreigner, 'rescue' 15 minors

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014


CEBU - A 50-year-old Australian national was arrested by the police in Cordova town Tuesday afternoon for allegedly recruiting minors for online pornography.

Peter James Robinson was caught inside his rented room in Cordova Home Village, which is located on the boundary between Barangays Buagsong and Catarman.

Operatives of the town police and its Women and Children’s Protection Desk (WCPD) arrested Robinson, a chemical engineer who has been living in the Philippines for two years.

The police rescued 15 minors, four boys and 11 girls. They are now placed under the care of social workers.

The Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB) assisted the social workers in debriefing the children.

Robinson, however, denied he is involved in child pornography, saying he runs a consulting firm in Manila and visits Cebu for vacation.

“I’m very confused,” said Robinson about his arrest.

A minor, assisted by her parents, was the first to complain about the abuse she allegedly received from the suspect before the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Lapu-Lapu City last week.

She reported that Robinson allegedly took pictures of her while he molested her in Manila.

Senior Insp. Alexander Nuñez, Cordova police chief, said the suspect befriends the children’s parents first. “He usually invites parents to a party. That is his modus,” he said.

First arrest

He said it was the first time they caught a foreigner who is allegedly involved in child pornography.

Authorities conducted anti-human trafficking operations from 2011 to 2013 in Cordova. They rescued more than 20 minors and arrested nine adults, most of them parents who were operating cybersex dens. Most of the arrests were made in Barangay Ibabao.

Robinson was caught after the police saw children coming out from his room.

Robinson, who is divorced, said the police did not show him an arrest warrant or a search warrant.

Lawyer Vincent Isles of CLB said the police can still arrest a person who is seen accompanying children who are not his or her relative.

That violates Section 10(b) of Republic Act 7610, or the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

The section states: “Any person who shall keep or have in his company a minor, 12 years or under or who in 10 years or more his junior in any public or private place, hotel, motel, beer joint, discotheque, cabaret, pension house, sauna or massage parlor, beach and/or other tourist resort or similar places shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor (six months to four years) in its maximum period and a fine of not less than P50,000.”

Met on Facebook

One of the rescued girls, Maddy (real name withheld), 15, said that Robinson befriended her through Facebook, a social networking site, last month.

The Grade 9 pupil said she was invited by the foreigner yesterday for lunch. She brought along her 12-year-old sister, cousin, and two neighbors in Barangay Basak, Lapu-Lapu City.

“Mag-chat-chat ra man mi sa (We chatted on) Facebook,” said Maddy. “Di mi uyab. Wa pud ko mangayo niya og kwarta (He is not my boyfriend and I have not asked him for money).”

A laptop was among the items the police confiscated from Robinson. Maddy said that when they “met” on Facebook, the man was using a different name.

Isles said CLB lawyers will prepare the sworn statements of the rescued minors.

Senior Insp. Nuñez said that Robinson may also be charged with child pornography or violating RA 9208 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons) as amended by RA 10364 (Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons).

Under RA 9208, a person is prohibited “to recruit, transport, transfer; harbor, provide, or receive a person by any means, including those done under the pretext of domestic or overseas employment or training or apprenticeship, for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage.”

Parents

Maddy’s companion said they went to the resort for lunch and were about to leave when the police arrested Robinson past 2 p.m. She saw children being taken out by the police and social workers from three rooms.

She heard the children had been left by their parents in the resort.

“If we can see there was connivance between them, we will include them in the charges,” said Isles, referring to the parents.

Robinson, however, denied he kept minors for the purpose of pornography. He checked in at the resort last Saturday.

“I was alone in my room,” he said. “I was about to swim in the pool when I was arrested.” He said he had visited Cebu before and his arrest yesterday was his first.

The rescued children will undergo psychological examination at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City today.

Why Cordova?

Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy thanked the police, Children’s Legal Bureau and Municipal Social Welfare Office for yesterday’s operation.

“Ako silang gi-ingnan (I told them) to be discreet and be careful, aron wala’y malapas nga balaod (so the law won’t be violated),” Sitoy said.

He said the information he received was that the illicit activity had started in Lapu-Lapu City but that the suspect brought the minors to Cordova.

When asked why cybersex has been repeatedly reported in Cordova, Sitoy said it’s because the town’s authorities act on the activity.

“Kami may manakop. Sa ubang dapit wa’y manakop bisan naa’y mahitabo, wa’y mabutyag (We arrest them. This also happens in other places, but they don’t get arrested there),” he said. With OCP

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 25, 2014.

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