On the evening of April 6, WCPC-VFU operatives led by Officer-in-Charge Police Lieutenant Colonel Mary Grace Madayag and members of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office (LCPO) arrested a 25-year-old female trafficker and her male live-in partner in separate locations in Lapu-Lapu City.
Jade (real name withheld to protect the victim’s identity) had livestreamed the sexual abuse of her underaged female cousin for a paying child sex offender abroad to whom child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM) were sold. Her live-in partner also sexually abused the victim.
The victim was earlier rescued by personnel of the WCPC-VFU on July 31, 2019. Now 14 years old, she was repeatedly abused for two years, from 2016 to 2018. The abuse started when she was 11 years old until she reached the age of 13. Since her rescue, she has been receiving aftercare services from the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Region 7 (DSWD Region 7).
WCPC-VFU personnel conducted the April 6 operation after arrest warrants for the couple were issued on February 26, 2020 by Lapu-Lapu City Regional Trial Court Branch 70 Judge Christine Muga-Abad. Jade was issued an arrest warrant for violation of Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (R.A. 9208 as amended by R.A. 10364), Anti-Child Abuse Law (R.A. 7610), and Anti-Child Pornography Act (R.A. 9775) in relation to Cybercrime Prevention Act (R.A. 10175), while her live-in partner was issued an arrest warrant for violation of Anti-Child Abuse Law.
Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar commended the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center – Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU) for their recent arrest of an online sex trafficker in Lapu-Lapu City.
“We congratulate our tenacious officers from WCPC-VFU for not letting the COVID-19 lockdowns halt their effort to enforce the law,” said Usec. Aglipay-Villar, Department of Justice’s Undersecretary-in-Charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT). “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. This calls for extra vigilance not only from our law enforcers, but from all of us.”
Usec. Aglipay-Villar gave her assurance that the IACAT continues to work through every available avenue to curtail human trafficking. “Despite the additional responsibilities of some of the member agencies of the IACAT due to the national health emergency, our reporting and referral mechanisms as well as rescue and reintegration programs continue to be operational and we remain ready and able to attend to cases of trafficking in persons”, she adds.
“I laud our WCPC-VFU colleagues for the successful arrests last week,” said WCPC Chief, Brig. Gen. Alessandro Abella. “It 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.”
The case against Jade stemmed from a referral forwarded by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) on March 2019. The FBI was then investigating Alan Dennis Wolff, a U.S.-based child sex offender, who paid and directed Jade to abuse her underaged female cousin in order to produce new CSEM to be sent to him online. Jade also live-streamed the sexual abuse of her female cousin in exchange of payment from Mr. Wolff.
On December 2019, Wolff pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of children before a court in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His sentence is set to be handed down this month.
A model for an enhanced global response against OSEC, PICACC is a cooperation among local and international law enforcement, namely the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC), the National Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Human-Trafficking Division (NBI-AHTRAD), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (UK NCA); in partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM), a non-government organization.
“WCPC-VFU’s successful operation last week 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,” said Atty. Samson Inocencio, National Director of International Justice Mission Philippines. He joins IACAT’s call to encourage everyone to stay vigilant against the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC), given how our children are made more vulnerable now by their home confinement.
One may report a suspected case of OSEC by texting ENDOSEC (space) (incident details) to 7444-64 for Smart network subscribers; or by calling the IACAT 1343 Action line; or directly connecting with WCPC at (032) 410-8483 for Visayas, and 0917-180-6037 or 0928-604-6425 for Mindanao.
The Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as the Luxembourg Guidelines, prescribes the use of the term “child sexual abuse material” or “child sexual exploitation material” instead of “child pornography”, except when referencing the name of statute. Sexualized material that depicts or otherwise represents children is a representation, and a form, of child sexual abuse and should not be described as “pornography.”