Acting on a tip from the Nordic Liaison Office, the Philippine National Police rescued five victims of cybersex trafficking last week in a town north of Manila.
With support from IJM’s local team in the Philippines, authorities entered a home in Tarlac and rescued a 10-year-old boy and three girls, ages 7, 14 and 15. One additional victim—a teenage girl—was not present at the home, but she was quickly found at her school and rescued.
Two suspects were arrested at the scene, including the mother of one of the victims.
The information leading to this successful rescue originated in Norway. To date, Philippine law enforcement has conducted at least seven arrest and rescue operations based on similar online child exploitation referrals from the Nordic Liaison Office, which comprises law enforcement agencies in Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark.
As access to high-speed internet has spread across the country, the Philippines has become a hotspot for cybersex trafficking. Where pedophiles once had to travel to the island nation to abuse children, predators around the world can now do it from their own home. By connecting with a local trafficker in the Philippines--like the two suspects arrested last week--and wiring an anonymous payment, they are easily able direct the live sexual abuse of Filipino children.
But Philippine law enforcement, with support from partners like IJM, are steadily finding the victims and restraining the traffickers in the Philippines who are exploiting children for online customers abroad. Cybersex trafficking is a global crime, and it demands a global response. Collaboration with international law enforcement agencies is critical; following this successful operation, Chief Police Senior Supt. Villamor Tuliao stated, “The international law enforcement community [is] now working hand-in-hand to stop [cybersex trafficking].”
Tuliao also noted this international law enforcement collaboration shows the global concern for Filipino children to live a better future. IJM’s Field Office Director in Manila, Rey Bicol, adds: “We will search to find every child who is being exploited, as was displayed by [this] thorough rescue.”
The children are now safe in the care of the social workers from the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and IJM. The road to recovery and healing requires trauma therapy and other critical aftercare services. The journey can take years, but we have seen that healing is possible.