WITHIN two years after its inauguration, the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (Picacc) made possible the rescue of 373 victims from online sexual exploitation and the arrest of 84 offenders.
The Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Australian Federal Police, UK National Crime Agency (NCA), and non-government organization International Justice Mission (IJM) launched Picacc on February 27, 2019 to strengthen global law enforcement collaboration in combating the online sexual exploitation of children.
On April 28, 2021, member agencies marked the center’s second anniversary with a virtual celebration where they looked back on the center’s accomplishments the past two years and welcomed a new member, the National Police of the Netherlands.
Through collaboration within Picacc, the NBI Anti-Human Trafficking Division (Ahtrad) and PNP Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) have conducted 118 operations, 79 of which took place during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the 373 victims rescued from online sexual exploitation, more than half were rescued during the pandemic.
During the ceremony, lawyer Janet Francisco, chief of NBI Ahtrad, said: “2020 was hard and dangerous for our frontline law enforcement teams. Yet, looking back, I not only saw the difficulties, but also how our shared vision to see a world where children are free from online exploitation, continue to inspire and compel us to remain disciplined, vigilant, and unrelenting in our work.”
Police Brigadier General Alessandro Abella, chief of PNP WCPC, said: “It takes strong global law enforcement collaboration to end the borderless crime of online sexual exploitation of children -- and Picacc has paved the way for this critical step. The impact of our increased collaboration with international counterparts is not only evident in the growing number of operations we have conducted since we formed Picacc. It also lies in every child who is protected with every restrained trafficker and deterred would-be perpetrator. We at PNP, through the Women and Children Protection Center, look forward to stronger and wider collaboration in the coming years, and ultimately, the end of online sexual exploitation of children.”
Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins, Australian Federal Police Senior Liaison Officer to the Philippines, said: “Collaborative cross-border efforts to protect children in the Philippines have significantly increased since the establishment of the Picacc two years ago. Despite the impact of Covid, our united effort to combat child exploitation has not abated, which is testament to strength of the partnerships and commitment between all our agencies. The Australian Federal Police remains committed to supporting the continued growth and maturity of the Picacc and working closely with our Philippine and international partners to detect and disrupt child sex offenders targeting and sexually exploiting and abusing children in the Philippines.”
NCA Director of Intelligence Stephen Smart said: “Tackling child sexual abuse is a core part of the NCA’s mission. Our commitment to tackling live-streaming of child abuse, including that orchestrated by UK offenders, was the initial reason for increasing our presence, and is still the reason for our continued activity. I have had a strong interest in the Picacc, its formation and development up to today, its second anniversary. I’ve seen its steady rise in operations, rescues and arrests and felt an intense pride in NCA’s involvement and contribution. The Picacc is strongly based on international cooperation and is a prime example of how well this cooperation can work. The NCA will continue to support the Picacc and work together with our partners in the Philippines to tackle this pernicious threat.”
“Picacc has truly set the gold standard for international law enforcement collaboration. We will continue to champion this model of enhanced global law enforcement for the rest of the world to learn how to protect children from online sexual exploitation,” said lawyer Samson Inocencio Jr., regional vice president of the IJM Hub Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children.
In his keynote speech during the virtual celebration, Department of the Interior and Local Government Undersecretary for Peace and Order Bernardo Florece Jr. said: “I thank and commend the Picacc for being the glue that binds partners, institutions and the citizenry together in saving our children from online sexual exploitation and in securing a dignified future for them.”
The event included an awarding ceremony for outstanding individuals who were instrumental to the successes Picacc has achieved over the past two years.
Also speaking during the virtual celebration were Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar; NBI Officer-in-Charge Eric Distor; Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Steven Robinson, AO; Her Majesty's Ambassador Daniel Pruce of the British Embassy in Manila; Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw; and Director General of the UK National Crime Agency, Dame Lynne G. Owens.
More than a hundred representatives from Picacc member agencies, government bodies, civil society organizations and the media attended the event. (PR)