CEBU, PHILIPPINES—IJM’s team in Cebu supported two successful operations this week that brought three young girls to safety and led to the arrest of a suspected trafficker.
The suspect had offered to sexually abuse the girls—ages 6, 9 and 11—and to livestream the abuse for customers overseas to watch. She had even boasted of having access to a handful of children who she could abuse for viewers online.
Cybersex trafficking often victimizes young children, and the Philippines has become a hotspot for this global crime. Customers located anywhere in the world can pay to watch and direct live sexual abuse of children over the internet. The crime is happening in secret across the Philippines, where children are abused in front of a webcam or the camera of a smart phone. There has been little accountability for the traffickers, but this week’s arrest is a sign of change—and of a safer future for vulnerable children in the Philippines.
On Monday, April 23, Philippines law enforcement and social services entered the suspect’s home in the small town of Cordova, located just outside of Metro Cebu. Officials arrested the Filipina woman, and IJM and government social workers were there to bring the children out of the home and explain that they weren’t in trouble; that they were safe. Two young boys were also brought out of the home to assess whether they, too, were victims. Police executed a search warrant and collected evidence. Among the items found in her home were a flat screen TV and several smart phones.
The group quickly conducted a follow-up operation in Talisay City, traveling an hour to find and rescue the third victim. The three girls are now safe in the protective custody of Philippine social services. Rescued victims of cybersex trafficking will need much care, including therapy, medical attention and a safe place to live. IJM and our partners will continue to walk alongside these rescued children to make sure they have what they need to heal, grow and thrive.
The suspect was charged on Wednesday with human trafficking charges. IJM’s lawyers in Cebu will support the prosecution to ensure that justice is secured for these children.