Online sex trafficker arrested in Lapu-Lapu City
Online sex trafficker arrested in Lapu-Lapu City
Philippine authorities urge communities to be 'extra' vigilant as online sex traffickers may be taking advantage of the lockdown

MANILA, Philippines – While Cebu province was on lockdown, a team of cops arrested a 25-year-old woman in Lapu-Lapu City for online sex trafficking.

The office of Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, who is undersecretary-in-charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), said in a statement on Saturday, April 18, that the arrest of the woman and her partner was conducted on April 6.

The arresting team, led by  Police Lieutenant Colonel Mary Grace Madayag of the Women and Children Protection Center- Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU) and Lapu-Lapu police arrested the couple in separate locations in the city.

The arrested woman – referred to as “Jade” to protect her victim’s identity – is accused of livestreaming the sexual abuse of her  underaged female cousin to a child sex offender based abroad, and also selling child sexual exploitation materials to the latter. Jade’s live-in partner allegedly sexually abused the victim.

The victim was abused from 2016, when she was 11 years old, until she was 13. She was rescued in July 2019, and had since received aftercare services from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Region 7.

The WCPC-VFU team arrested the couple based on warrants issued by Lapu-Lapu City Regional Trial Court Branch 70 Judge Christine Muga-Abad on February 26, 2020. 

The couple’s 3 children, all under the age of 7, were placed in the custody of DSWD-7 for assessment.

The case stemmed from a referral of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) in March 2019. 

At the time, the FBI was investigating Alan Dennis Wolff, a US-based child sex offender, who paid and directed Jade to abuse the victim and capture it on video.  Jade also livestreamed the acts to him.

Wolff was indicted in May 2019, and pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of children before a court in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in December of the same year. His sentence would be handed down this month.

Collective effort

Villar lauded the arrest of the couple in Lapu-Lapu City, especially at a time when parts of the country are on lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, and children who are forced to stay at home become more vulnerable to online sex traffickers.

Lapu-Lapu City, Cordova, and Mandaue City are among several hotspots for sex trafficking crimes in Cebu. Last year, a German sex trafficker was arrested in Lapu-Lapu City.

“We are facing a highly likely scenario of unscrupulous traffickers taking advantage of the situation. Vulnerable children are confined in their homes and there’s increased offending activity from online child sex offenders abroad as already observed by foreign law enforcement agencies,” Villar said.

“This calls for extra vigilance not only from our law enforcers, but from all of us,” the DOJ official added.

WCPC chief Brigadier General Alessandro Abella said the arrest is “a testament to our commitment as law enforcers to keep our children safe, not only from the coronavirus, but also from online sexual exploitation.”

“We will not allow ruthless individuals to take advantage of the children who are confined with them in their homes. We will continue to send abusers and traffickers to jail,” Abella added.

Samson Inocencio, National Director of International Justice Mission (IJM) Philippines, said the successful operation in Lapu-Lapu City “should be a reminder for all criminally-minded individuals that the current lockdowns are not stopping our law enforcers from doing their mandate of protecting our children.”

The PICACC is a collective effort of local and international law enforcement to fight child sexual exploitation in the Philippines.

It brings together efforts of  Philippine National Police-WCPC, the National Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Human-Trafficking Division , the Australian Federal Police, and the United Kingdom National Crime Agency, in partnership with the IJM. –

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