On the vast array of islands that make up the Philippines, in cities more than 200 miles apart, two teams of authorities mobilized early this week to find and rescue vulnerable children.
Over months of investigations, IJM’s team in the Philippines supported local authorities to build cases against criminals who offered to sexually abuse children in front of a camera, then stream that abuse online. In exchange for a small payment, the customers—child predators who are located anywhere in the world—could watch the abuse from the comfort of their own homes.
Through two successful operations this week, IJM and Philippine authorities brought six children to safety. Officers from the Women and Children Protection Center arrested the three criminals who had offered to exploit several of the young victims and broadcast their abuse online.
Two teenage boys were rescued from a neighborhood in Butuan City as their traffickers were arrested. Police then traveled two hours to find an 11-year-old girl who had also been offered by the same suspected traffickers for online exploitation.
The next day, in Cebu, police caught a mother who allegedly offered to sexually abuse her 13-year-old daughter for foreign customers online. The girl’s younger sister and cousin—a 3-year-old toddler and 3-week-old infant—were at the home at the time of arrest and were removed as “at risk” children who were under the suspect’s care.
Cybersex trafficking is a dark form of modern slavery, and it’s preying on children across the Philippines—the government receives thousands of case referrals every month from the countries where the pedophiles and predators reside.
The arrested suspects face prosecution for their crimes. “No trafficker who sexually abuses children and sells the images, videos or live-stream of that abuse online can hide,” said John Tanagho, who leads IJM’s team in Cebu. “It’s only a matter of time before they will get caught, and face justice through prosecution in court.”
The six children are now safe from further exploitation. Social workers from IJM and the Department of Social Welfare and Development will assess each child’s unique needs and determine the best care for the survivors moving forward.