A REGIONAL trial court in Lapu-Lapu sentenced on March 11 two female suspects for offenses related to online sexual exploitation of children (Osec).

The conviction was the conclusion of a March 21, 2019 operation conducted by the Women and Children Protection Center Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU) wherein five female suspects were arrested in entrapment operations in two homes in Lapu-Lapu City.

Members of the WCPC-VFU caught the traffickers offering to sexually abuse the minors and streaming live the exploitation in exchange for money from online predators.

Authorities rescued 11 minors during the three simultaneous operations, including children ages 2, 6, 7 and 12.

The arrest built-up strong evidence for the prosecution as the same suspects pleaded guilty to offenses related to online sexual exploitation this March through plea bargaining.

Lawyer Antonio Asiniero, the regional prosecutor in charge of the case, said: "The fight against Osec continues... With God's guidance and the help of the community, such as the IJM, anything and everything is possible."

Lawyer Lucille Dejito, director of the International Justice Mission (IJM) Cebu Field Office, said the plea bargaining strategy “again proved to be an effective legal instrument to secure justice for the survivors of the March 2019 rescue.”

“With the two suspects pleading guilty for other offenses, such as attempted trafficking, their victims can now be assured that justice has finally prevailed,” Dejito said.

For charges related to Republic Act 9208, both female suspects pleaded guilty for attempted trafficking, which carries a penalty of 15 years imprisonment each and a fine of P500,000.

The court also ordered each suspect to pay an additional P500,000 for moral damages and P100,000 for exemplary damages.

The conviction on March 11 happened less than a week after the third anniversary of the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center, a cooperation among local and international law enforcement, namely, the Philippine National Police’s-WCPC, National Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Human-Trafficking Division, the Australian Federal Police, and the United Kingdom National Crime Agency, in partnership with IJM.

Anyone who has information about an incidence of online sexual exploitation of children is encouraged to report it immediately via these PNP-WCPC hotlines: 0919-777-7377 (Smart) and 0966-725-5961 (Globe). (PR)