Tip from Australian police lead to arrest of sex trafficker in Caloocan

Acting on a tip from Australian police, Philippine authorities arrested a 41-year-old woman in Caloocan City for the online sexual exploitation of her own children.

The Philippine National Police-Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC), and the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Human Trafficking Division (NBI-AHTRAD) conducted the joint operation on Tuesday, May 4, in partnership with the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC).

The suspect allegedly forced her 3 children to perform sexual acts on webcam for paying customers. (FAST FACTS: Why online sexual exploitation of children happens in the Philippines)

The victims, a 13-year-old boy and two girls aged 14 and 5, were rescued and were given received trauma-informed aftercare services, according to a joint press statement of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the NBI, the PNP, and the International Justice Mission (IJM), a non-governmental organization.

Police obtained a mobile phone, desktop computer, a webcam, cash, and remittance receipts from the suspect's home.

Australian police had earlier referred the case to PICACC.

"Let this be a testament that law enforcers will not stop to pursue justice even through this quarantine period,” said Police Brigadier General Alessandro Abella, chief of the PNP-WCPC.

Child-focused NGOs had earlier sounded the alarm on the potential rise of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) during the coronavirus lockdown. In April, police arrested a 25-year-old woman allegedly engaged in cybersex trafficking of minors, including her own children, in an undisclosed province in Luzon. (READ: 'Trapped with abusers,' 7 kids rescued from sex trafficker in Luzon)

Samson Inocencio, National Director of IJM Philippines, said it was comforting to know that “amidst the lockdowns, our law enforcement partners are actively collaborating with each other to achieve the common goal to end OSEC.”

“This operation will leave a lasting memory that despite certain conditions and challenges, we will go above and beyond the call of duty to rescue children from this horrific crime,” he added. 

AFP  Detective Sergeant Graeme Marshall, the AFP Liaison Officer in Manila, cited the importance of international cooperation in protecting children wherever they may be.

“The AFP and its international partners are working tirelessly to target anyone who seeks to exploit children, and we are not distracted by the demands of the COVID pandemic,” Marshall said.

David Cater, United Kingdom National Crime Agency (UK NCA) Regional Manager, cited the May 4 operation as “another great example of inter-agency law enforcement collaboration in action despite the quarantine measures in place.”

“Today, 3 more children will no longer be subjected to online abuse having been saved from online sexual exploitation. The National Crime Agency is proud to be supporting all our partners in the Philippines in their efforts to combat child abuse,” Cater added.

The PICACC, which has become a model for an enhanced global response against online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC), is a  cooperation among local and international law enforcement, namely the PNP-WCPC, the NBI-AHTRAD, the AFP, and the UK NCA, in partnership with IJM. – Rappler.com