THREE Filipino traffickers were arrested, while 15 minors were rescued in entrapments operations conducted in Taguig City and Cebu City Saturday, February 16.
The first operation, conducted at 1:30 p.m. of February 16 in Taguig City, resulted in the arrest of a man and woman, who were caught offering children to be sexually exploited online in exchange for money.
The names of the suspects were withheld due to their relationship with some of the victims.
Five girls were rescued, along with a one-year-old baby.
Three more children -- two girls and one boy, with ages 10 to 17 -- were found and rescued in a follow-up operation.
In Cebu City, around 5 p.m. of February 16, authorities also arrested a 33-year-old man after he offered two underage boys for commercial sexual exploitation.
Members of the Women and Children Protection Center–Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) caught the suspect, identified as Joey Michael Donozo, in the act of offering the minors, ages 9 and 14, for sexual abuse by a foreigner.
The operation took place in a fast food restaurant in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City. Police and social workers rescued the two minors.
Authorities said Donozo also previously transmitted online sexually explicit images involving one of the boys in exchange for money from online predators.
Following the entrapment operation Saturday, authorities searched the neighborhood, looking for four more boys who were previously offered for in-person and online sexual exploitation. All four boy -- ages 12, 13, 13, and 14 -- were found and rescued.
The arrest and rescue operation in Cebu City was a result of a case referral from the Australian Federal Police to the PNP.
According to the referral, the suspect had been arranging for foreigners to meet underage boys in person for sexually explicit acts. He had also filmed underage boys doing sexually explicit acts and had himself sexually abused the victims.
In Taguig City, the entrapment operation resulted from a referral sent by the US Homeland Security to the PNP-Transnational Criminal Investigative Task Force.
The referral notified the Taguig police about a trafficker who is offering children online in exchange for money. Further investigations led to identifying three suspects and the home where the crime was occurring.
“Young vulnerable Filipino boys were sexually exploited online and through in person abuse just so a pimp could earn easy money selling the body and dignity of precious children. Praise God for the WCPC police unit that continues to courageously rescue children from the clutches of sexual depravity and send the arrested abusers and traffickers to jail to await justice for their crimes,” said IJM Field Office director John Tanagho.
The WCPC-VFU operation was supported by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Central Visayas, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking-Central Visayas, the Cebu City Police Office’s Special Weapons and Tactics and Women and Children Protection Desk, and the International Justice Mission.
“To those who are engaging in online sexual exploitation of children, you should stop your illegal activity now because the WCPC Visayas Field Unit will catch and bring you to the court of law,” Senior Superintendent Romeo Perigo said.
The children rescued from both operations are now in the care of the DSWD and are receiving proper trauma-informed interventions.
Online sexual exploitation of children (Osec) is a serious threat to children and is a devastating form of modern-day slavery. Nearly 50 percent of victims are 12 years old or younger.
Occurring in communities all over the Philippines, Osec is a crime that violates the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act or Republic Act (RA) 9308 (as amended by RA 10364), which comes with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of P2 million to P5 million.
Typical Osec offenses also violate RA 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) and RA 9775 (Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009). Both have penalties equivalent to 20 to 40 years imprisonment.
“With thanks to the diligence and collaboration of authorities local and abroad, three more traffickers are stopped from committing this heinous crime, and 15 more children are rescued and beginning the healing and restoration process. Our country is known as the global epicenter for this crime. May we make up to this reality. Our children deserve to live in a trustworthy society,” said IJM Manila Field Office Director Rey Bicol.
As of January 2019, IJM has supported Philippine law enforcement agencies in the arrest of 183 Osec perpetrators and in the rescue of 429 victims around the country since 2011. (PR)