THE Philippine National Police (PNP)-Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) arrested three suspected traffickers and rescued 23 victims, 22 of whom are minors, from trafficking in persons and online sexual exploitation in two successive operations Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

The operations, a product of over six months of case build-up, were a result of international law enforcement collaboration between the US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the PNP-WCPC through the Transnational Criminal Investigation Task Force (TCITF).

The first operation took place around 1:45 p.m. in Taguig City, spearheaded by three WCPC offices: the TCITF, Luzon Field Unit (LFU), and Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Division (AVAWCD).

Two female suspects, who are sisters aged 39 and 33, were arrested, while 12 minors, some of whom are relatives of the suspects, were rescued by the operatives.

TCITF Officer-in-Charge Lieutenant Colonel Catherine Tamayo-Cipriano led the operation under the supervision of WCPC Assistant Chief Colonel Portia Manalad and the overall supervision of WCPC Chief Brigadier General Edgar DM Cacayan.

Supporting the operation were the Taguig City Police Office through Sub-Station 9, Taguig City Swat, the City Social Welfare and Development Office, and International Justice Mission (IJM).

The first operation was followed by a police engagement with another suspect located in Bulacan Province, about 30 kilometers away from the first location, resulting in a second operation around 4:30 p.m.

Arrested in San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan was another female suspect, aged 32, who had connections with the two suspects arrested in Taguig.

Ten minors and one adult were brought to safety. Some of them are also relatives of the third suspect.

The second operation was conducted jointly by the WCPC led by Police Lieutenant Colonel Lucrecio Rodrigueza Jr., LFU Office-in-Charge and PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group.

The San Jose del Monte City Police Office supported the operation, which saw law enforcers implementing a Warrant to Search, Seize and Examine Computer Data issued by Judge Maria Zenaida Bernadette T. Mendiola.

Charges being prepared for the arrested suspects include violation of Republic Act (RA) 9208 as amended by RA 10364, also known as the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, violation of RA 9775, otherwise known as the Anti-Child Pornography Act, and violation of RA 7610, otherwise known as the Special Protection of Children Against All Forms of Abuse and Discrimination, all in relation to RA 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

“Truly, international law enforcement collaboration is one of the keys to addressing trafficking in persons and the online sexual exploitation of children, a crime that is transnational in nature. We thank our global counterparts for proactively working with Philippine authorities to arrest sex offenders and traffickers preying on vulnerable children. Together, we can bring more children to safety and protect more from both restrained and deterred perpetrators,” Cacayan said.

Lawyer Reynaldo Bicol, director of IJM Manila Program Office, said: “We at IJM are one with the PNP-WCPC and global law enforcement partners in ensuring a safer world for children. There’s no room for impunity for a devastating crime like the online sexual exploitation of children. IJM is committed to supporting local and global authorities in bringing perpetrators to justice and helping survivors toward healing and restoration.”

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