(UPDATED) - Philippine authorities, with the help of law enforcers from Norway and the United States, arrested on Thursday, March 8, a man “notorious” for producing and selling to overseas clients sex videos involving children.
Anselmo Ico Jr. was arrested after authorities swooped down on his residence in Barangay Anilao, Malolos City in Bulacan province at about 5 p.m. Thursday.
At the same time, authorities rescued five minor victims, with ages ranging from 2 to 16 years old. Two of the young victims are Ico’s relatives while the three others are his neighbors.
All five children are now in the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Senior Superintendent Villamor Tuliao, Philippine National Police (PNP) Women and Children Protection Center anti-trafficking division chief, said Ico will be facing charges for the violation of Expanded Anti-Human Trafficking of Persons Act of 2012, Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act and the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.
Further investigation is being conducted to identify Ico’s cohorts.
The raid was conducted after Norwegian anti-crime officials notified Philippine authorities in early January about the arrest of a Norwegian citizen, Ketil Andersen, who allegedly purchased child sex videos made in the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran said in a statement.
Norwegian crime investigators took over Andersen's Skype accounts to communicate with his contacts in an effort that led them to Ico, Gierran said, adding that a private group, the International Justice Mission, helped authorities with the case.
"In Norway, the transnational crime of sexual exploitation of children is highly prioritized and we're glad to see that your cooperation in this case so far has given us such tangible results," Norwegian police official Sidsel Isachsen said at a news conference in Manila where Ico, a Filipino, was presented in handcuffs.
When asked by The Associated Press for his reaction, Ico acknowledged he produced the sex videos in which children participated but said the sex acts were staged.
"That's fake news. It's not real ... because it can be staged easily," Ico said as he was led away.
Tuliao said Ico has been in their radar as early as 2011 but he was “very elusive.”
“Very smart and magaling engaging online sa mga clients n’ya in the course of his activity na pangongolekta ng pera and offering this children para i-live stream,” he said.
(He is very smart and good at engaging his clients online.)
“Naka-chat na siya ng isa naming agent pero parang nakakaramdam siya. Huminto-hinto siya makipag-engage sa amin. Paputol-putol pakikipagusap namin sa kanya very elusive siya ilang pera ang inubos namin to send money just for him to engage us papadala kami pero nakakawala kaya matagal build up ng case,” he added.
(One of our agents was in touch with him, but he must have sensed that it was a setup. We had sent him money just to engage him, but he is very elusive.)
“Ang bayad sa kanya daw is ranging from $5 to $500 depending sa klung anong gusto ng client and per hour din,” he said.
(He is paid $5 to $500 per hour, depending on what the clients want.)
Tuliao said they recovered several laptops, desktop computers, identification cards and digital payment and bank cards from Ico’s residence.
Meanwhile, the US embassy in the Philippines commended the PNP and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Anti-Human Trafficking Division,for the arrest of Ico.
“The coordinated international effort came to fruition thanks in part to the deep partnership between U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Manila office and their Philippine counterparts at NBI and PNP,” it said in a statement.
“Due to HSI’s ongoing investigations and support, Philippine law enforcement agencies were able to collaborate and combine their respective investigations to apprehend the individual,” the embassy added.
Cybersex crimes are increasing in the Philippines because of easy access to the internet and English fluency among many Filipinos, making it possible for suspects to communicate with would-be customers. (With AP)