CEBU, PHILIPPINES – IJM helped Philippine authorities rescue two girls, 14 and 15 years old, from cybersex trafficking over the weekend. Two suspects were arrested for allegedly live-streaming sexual abuse of children to foreigners who paid to watch via webcam. Three more children, including an 8-year-old girl, were found and removed from the home to determine whether they too were victimized.
The home where the children were being exploited was made of woven bamboo and found materials, tucked away in a village overlooking the busy city of Cebu. The rescue team of IJM staff, government social workers, and police from Cebu City and the Visayas regional anti-trafficking unit climbed the hill on Saturday morning, September 9. They seized evidence and arrested the two Filipino suspects.
Social workers provided bright scarves, called sarongs, to shield the children from onlookers who gathered to see what was happening. The children are now safe at a temporary shelter, and IJM will support them as they are placed in longer term aftercare.
"The proliferation of online sex exploitation cases in the Philippines is indeed alarming. We have been receiving referrals from different foreign law enforcement agencies, and WCPC [Women and Children Protection Center—the anti-trafficking unit] conducts validation, investigation and case build up. Unlike any other exploitation/abuse against children, the involvement of the internet makes OSEC [online sexual exploitation of children] a very complex crime. Nevertheless WCPC and its partners continue to exhaust all efforts to put a stop to this horrible crime against our children,” shared Colonel Sheila Portento, of the Philippine National Police WCPC.
"There is hope for the children of the Visayas Region in the Philippines because the WCPC [anti-trafficking unit] has already conducted 10 operations against online sexual exploitation of children in the Visayas this year, rescuing over 20 victims and arresting more than 10 suspects,” said John Tanagho, IJM Cebu Field Office Director."Police operations deter crime and protect children from further abuse, and when WCPC is fully staffed it will be an unstoppable force to END online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines.”