ILIGAN CITY, LANAO DEL NORTE - On February 9, 2022, Regional Trial Court Branch 2 sentenced one male and another female trafficker for offenses related to the online sexual exploitation of children. In exchange for money, they sexually abused three female minors, who were the biological nieces of the male trafficker.
Upon learning of the suspects' conviction, Police Colonel Christine S. Tan, Chief of the Women and Children Protection Center Mindanao Field Unit (WCPC-MFU), who led the operations on the ground, reacted, saying that:
The conviction of the two accused in this instance gives me great assurance that our efforts to go above and beyond the line of duty pay off in the end. Team WCPC, under the leadership of Police Brigadier General Edgar Demayo Caacyan, Chief of the WCPC, rescued the three (3) female minors from online sexual exploitation in the remotest parts of Mindanao. Knowing that both the suspects are now serving their time behind bars makes all our efforts in the WCPC-MFU worthwhile. These three children can now leave this dark chapter of their past behind and focus on their healing, restoration, and future. Their childhood was lost when they were abused but thanks to this conviction, they can be children again.
The male trafficker was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment after pleading guilty to attempted trafficking under Republic Act 9208 (as amended by Republic Act 10364) or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. He was ordered to pay a fine of P500,000 and civil liabilities amounting to P50,000 per complainant for violations of the Anti-Child Abuse law and the Ant-Child Pornography Act.
His female accomplice on the other hand was sentenced to serve from 4 to 8 years of imprisonment in combined penalties for violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and Anti-Child Abuse Law. She was ordered to pay civil liabilities of P50,000 per complainant for the trafficking offenses.
Regional Prosecutor Merlynn Barola-Uy, Head of the Justice Regional Anti-Trafficking Task Force in Region X (DOJ-RATTF X) had this to say:
Illigan City has been a hotspot in Northern Mindanao for crimes involving online sexual exploitation of children. With the first conviction of this year, 2022, we have proven once again that collaboration and coordination among law enforcement, non-government organizations like IJM, and the DOJ Regional Anti-Trafficking Task Force X, lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, rescue of the victims, and the successful prosecution of the cases in court, resulting to the conviction of the accused for the crimes of attempted trafficking in persons, child abuse, and violation of the Anti-Child Pornography Act. This is a clear manifestation of our firm resolve to fight exploitation of children in any form and to send a strong message that we will never tolerate OSEC, especially in this region.
In relation to RP Uy's statement, Atty. Lucille Dejito, Director of IJM Cebu Program Office, added:
With the world observing Safer Internet Day on February 8, these timely convictions served as reminders that the Philippine government and partners are relentless in the fight to protect children from online sexual exploitation. We hope that through these arrests, rescues and convictions, criminals perpetrating this abuse and exploitation of children realize that the long and relentless arm of the law is bound to catch them. My warmest congratulations to the DOJ-RATTF X, WCPC-MFU, and RACU 10 for bringing protection to children with every arrest and conviction. IJM is committed to continue supporting efforts to safeguard vulnerable children from this horrible form of trafficking and journey with survivors towards healing and restoration."
In observance of Safer Internet Day, IJM launched the #NotOnOurScreens campagin alongside the DOJ - Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, PNP-WCPC, TikTok, PLDT, and Smart. The campaign aimed to cultivate a culture of vigilance against the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation material.
Anyone who has information about an incidence of online sexual exploitation of children is encouraged to report it immediately via these PNP-WCPC hotlines: 0919-777-7377 (Smart) and 0966-725-5961 (Globe).