Five Filipino women who sexually abused and exploited children to make money online have been sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison.
They pleaded guilty to attempted trafficking nearly three years after their arrest in local operations that stemmed from a referral by Australian authorities.
The Regional Trial Court Branch 14 in Bislig City, Philippines issued its ruling Feb. 21 2023, after the five traffickers (names withheld to protect the identity of the victims) entered into plea agreements.
“These convictions are a powerful example of what international collaboration can achieve in holding perpetrators accountable for abusing and exploiting children.
My hope is for these convictions to deter criminals and prevent the abuse and exploitation of children from ever happening in the first place. Prevention is vital in the fight against human trafficking,” said Prosecutor Clementino Rabor, Head of DOJ Regional Anti-Trafficking Task Force XIII, Caraga.
“Plea bargaining can be a powerful child protective prosecution strategy that mitigates the risk of retraumatizing young victims who have already suffered so much. By sparing them the ordeal of testifying in court, we can help ensure that justice is served without potentially triggering the trauma of survivors on the stand,” said IJM Cebu Director Lucille Dejito. “IJM commends public prosecutors who have leveraged plea bargaining from a position of strength to protect survivors, while still holding perpetrators accountable with significant penalties.”
On Aug. 20 2020, local authorities arrested the traffickers in Bislig City following a referral by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC). The case referred involved an Australian national who was arrested for paying Filipino traffickers to produce and transmit child sexual abuse materials. An Australian court sentenced him to more than 15 years in prison in August 2022. The operations in Bislig City also led to the rescue of 15 victims, 13 of whom were minors. Among them were children of some of the traffickers.
Launched Feb. 27 2019, the PICACC is a coordinating body between local and international law enforcement. Principally led by the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Centre (PNP-WCPC) and the National Bureau of Investigation’s AntiHuman-Trafficking Division (NBI-AHTRAD), PICACC is supported by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (UK NCA), the National Police of the Netherlands (Politie) and non-government organisation, International Justice Mission (IJM).