EASTERN VISAYAS, PHILIPPINES—In a series of police operations on October 9 and 10, Philippine authorities arrested five trafficking suspects who were caught offering teenage girls for sexual exploitation online. The five victims, ranging in age from 14 to 17 years old, were rescued.
Members of the Women and Children Protection Center and local police units located the five suspects at several different locations. On Wednesday, operatives entered the home of one suspect, Martha*, finding two children who authorities determined to be “at risk”—a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old—and removing them from the house for further assessment.
At another residence, police located three additional suspects. Finding one of the teenage victims they were searching for, officials also removed two more at-risk children, who are 2 years old and 11 months old, for assessment. A fifth suspect later turned herself in at Caibiran Municipal Police Station.
On Thursday, as police continued to search for additional victims, four more girls were found and rescued. All of the children are now safe and in the care of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
These operations were the result of a case referral from the Australian Federal Police to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center regarding an Australian man charged with child exploitation-related offenses. With this referral, Philippine authorities were able to conduct further investigations to identify and locate local traffickers in the Philippines who were linked to the Australian perpetrator.
Following the IJM-supported operations, John Tanagho, who leads IJM’s office in Cebu, shared, “International collaboration and foreign law enforcement referrals led to the rescue of sexually exploited children and the restraint of those traffickers who are so willing to sacrifice the innocence of children for easy cash. As police here and abroad continue their intense efforts against perpetrators on online sexual exploitation of children, they will undoubtedly protect thousands of children from this violent crime and stage its end in the Philippines.”
“The online sexual exploitation of children is a crime that my team at [the Women and Children Protection Center] will continue to stand up against," said Captain Lawrence Nino Ibo in his statement.
He continued: “Regardless of poverty or nationality, we will fight to protect our children from those who seek to victimize them online.”
*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of the rescued victims.