On March 30, 2022, the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) commemorated their third anniversary with a hybrid celebration, conducted in person for a limited audience and livestreamed on the National Bureau of Investigations’ Facebook page, where they looked back on wins and milestones since inauguration.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP), Australian Federal Police, U.K. National Crime Agency (NCA), and non-government organization International Justice Mission (IJM) launched PICACC on February 27, 2019 to strengthen global law enforcement collaboration in combating the online sexual exploitation of children. In 2021, the National Police of the Netherlands officially joined the PICACC partnership.
Since PICACC’s inauguration, the NBI Anti-Human Trafficking Division (AHTRAD) and PNP Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) have conducted 179 operations, rescuing 526 victims, and arresting 113 suspects. Over the last year, amidst the pandemic, they conducted 52 operations, rescuing 154 victims, and arresting 48 suspects.
The success of global law enforcement collaboration through PICACC is evident in the dramatic increase of rescue operations following its inauguration. In 2015, the Philippines saw 12 victims rescued from online sexual exploitation of children, but in the three years since PICACC’s inauguration, 526 victims were brought to safety.
Officials of PICACC member agencies shared messages of commitment and hope during the ceremony as well as in a magazine produced to celebrate their third anniversary.
Atty. Janet Francisco, Chief of NBI AHTRAD, said: “Online sexual exploitation is a cruel crime that no innocent child should ever have to go through. With the rise of this modern form of trafficking, I have never been more determined, more devoted to protecting children from abuse. As a mother and as a woman, I have the heart and the willpower to stop this crime, and I’m grateful to be working alongside likeminded individuals and groups toward this shared goal."
Police Colonel Sheila Portento, Chief of PNP-WCPC Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division, said:
“I will stop at nothing to keep every child safe. This mission of rescuing and protecting children from online sexual exploitation has touched my deepest sense of humanity. I do this, not just as a police officer, but as a mother, an aunt, a sister. Perpetrators should know that if they don’t stop, it’s only a mater of time before I and my fellow law enforcers get to them."
Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins, Australian Federal Police Senior Liaison Officer to the Philippines, said: “The exploitation of children is a global issue and we need to tackle it as a global community. It requires an international, collaborative and coordinated approach and this is why the PICACC has been established. We all share a commitment in protecting children and detecting and disrupting child sex offenders, irrespective of their location. Collaborative cross-border efforts to protect children in the Philippines has significantly increased since the PICACC was established. Child sex offenders operating in the Philippines and abroad have been disrupted and victims of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children have been rescued and removed from harm. The Australian Federal Police remains committed to supporting the continued growth and maturity of the PICACC and the united effort to combat child exploitation in the Philippines."
NCA International Liaison Officer Steve Cobbold, said: “In just over three short years the PICACC has grown from an aspiration to become an essential element in the Philippine law enforcement [online sexual exploitation of children] livestreaming process. The NCA is proud to have supported the PICACC from its beginnings up to the present and is committed to its future support. International collaboration is essential in combating livestreaming and protecting children in the Philippines. The PICACC has enhanced this cooperative work, bringing in and encouraging more foreign law enforcement agencies to investigate these offences, increasing the intelligence and evidence available, leading to more children safeguarded and offenders arrested. The NCA looks forward to its continued growth and a continuation of its substantial impact on [online sexual exploitation of children] livestreaming in the Philippines and abroad."
National Police of the Netherlands Senior Liaison Officer to the Philippines Ben Olde Engberink, said: “Congratulations PICACC with your third anniversary and congratulations all involved partners and participants with this anniversary and the great results in this third year. The COVID-19 pandemic made our work difficult but we showed it was not impossible. The Netherlands National Police is a proud partner of PICACC and member of the Donor Board of Management where we see an unique collaboration between Law Enforcement Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations with a common goal: protecting our children! Great to see all these efforts by all the highly motivated stakeholders to create a safe playground for children to grow up in. Especially for the Netherlands National Police, a first year experience empowering and strengthening international cooperation set a good example and that makes us want more. Congratulations again and keep up the good work. There is still plenty to do."
Atty. Samson Inocencio Jr., Regional Vice President of the IJM’s Program Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children, said: “To our friends and partners at PICACC, it is our joy and honor to once again celebrate the fruit of this international and inter-agency collaboration. While the work of PICACC brings more and more Filipino children to freedom and safety, this partnership also advances our country’s ability to respond to and prevent the spread of this atrocious crime. With you at the forefront of this fight, we continue to be confident that we will indeed see a world where children are safe from online sexual exploitation. Congratulations, PICACC!”
Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra provided the keynote speech during the celebration. Also speaking during the virtual celebration were Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking Undersecretary George Ortha II; Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Steven Robinson, AO; Her Majesty's Ambassador, Her Excellency Laure Beaufils of the British Embassy in Manila; and Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Philippines, Her Excellency Saskia De Lang.
Around 80 representatives from PICACC member agencies, government bodies, civil society organizations and the media attended the event in person and more joined via the livestream online.