AN APPELLATE court in Canada has increased the sentence for an online sex offender who was originally ordered to spend 12 years in prison for directing and paying for the live streamed sexual abuse of Filipino children ages 2 to 9 years old living in Leyte in central Philippines.
In a decision rendered on October 16, 2019, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal raised the penalty for Philip Michael Chicoine by three years to 15 years.
In a ground-breaking ruling, the court said that Chicoine’s “offending equated to actual ‘hands-on’ sexual offending” because -- through the internet -- he “was actively engaged in the online sexual assault of children” and “was present in real time and directed and orchestrated the assaults.”
International Justice Mission (IJM) Cebu Field Office Director John Tanagho lauded the decision. “IJM welcomes this appellate court decision because it acknowledges the severe harm that online sex offenders cause by directing and paying for new sexual abuse of very young, vulnerable children. Online offenders are the money and minds behind violent sexual abuse and must be held accountable according to the severity of their offenses. IJM looks forward to the day when all demand-side governments provide prison sentences that are sufficiently strong to both restrain and deter offenders from harming other children.”
In November 2017, Chicoine pled guilty to 40 sexual offences committed against children in a span of six years, during which he spent more than $20,000 arranging for the live streaming of child sexual abuse of victims in the Philippines and Romania. Judge Vanessa Monar Enweani subsequently sentenced him to 12 years in prison.
The 15-year sentence “emphasizes denunciation and deterrence and sends a clear message to those who would use telecommunication to commit sexual offences against children that the penalty for doing so will be significant,” the appeal decision reads.
The appellate court also noted that the sentence is “perhaps the longest ever imposed in this jurisdiction for sexual offences against children.”
Upon his arrest in 2017, authorities uncovered his collection of more than 10,000 images and videos of child sexual abuse. Corporal Jared Clarke of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), formerly of the Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation Unit, testified that the images and videos were the worst he had seen in terms of their violent and graphic content.
An offshoot of Chicoine’s arrest was an operation conducted by Philippine authorities in the province of Leyte on November 10, 2017, in coordination with the Interagency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat)-Eastern Visayas.
Operatives from the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC)-Visayas Field Unit arrested a female online trafficker and rescued her daughter and eight other children ages 2 to 9 years old. Her spouse -- a local barangay counselor -- was arrested six months later via an arrest warrant.
The couple is now being prosecuted for trafficking in persons, child pornography and the worst form of child labor before the family court at the Regional Trial Court 10 in Abuyog, Leyte.
On May 31, 2018, Corporal Clarke testified at the Regional Trial Court Branch 10 in Abuyog, Leyte to authenticate the referral letter RCMP sent to the PNP. That important trial is ongoing and being closely monitored by Iacat-Eastern Visayas.
“Online child sex offenders from Western countries like Canada fuel the demand for child sexual exploitation materials from the Philippines. We commend the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal for imposing a 15-year sentence against a Canadian citizen who has caused trauma to several Filipino children. We believe that higher penalty for OSEC crimes will result in greater deterrence,” said Police Brigadier General William S. Macavinta, chief of the WCPC.
In a privilege speech before the Senate on March 14, 2018, then-senator Loren Legarda called on demand-side countries to impose higher penalty against online child sex offenders.
She said: “While the Philippines can do all it can to address this, a holistic solution requires that developed countries, from which the demand for this type of exploitation usually originates, must also do their part. This calls for amending the lenient sentences that their laws mete upon those who prey on Filipino children... I am issuing a call and a challenge to our fellow legislators from other countries: raise the penalties to lower the demand and reflect the true nature of the crime in your respective countries. Truly, this is one of the worst forms of violence against women and children, with incalculable harm that traumatizes children, even to the point of death.”
Now a congresswoman representing the Lone District of Antique, Legarda affirms this recommendation.
As of October 22, 2019, IJM has supported Philippine law enforcement agencies in operations leading to the arrest of more than 200 perpetrators of online sexual exploitation of children and the rescue of more than 500 victims around the country. (PR)