MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Three people who turned their home into a cybersex trafficking den were convicted on September 13, 2017. They recruited children as young as 6 years old from their own neighborhood and extended families, then placed them in front of a webcam for foreigners who would direct the sexual abuse remotely. The Filipino facilitators would earn up to $2,950 (P150,000) per session.
A journalist filed a confidential report after discovering the abuse back in 2015. IJM helped the anti-trafficking unit based in Manila respond to the case—a challenge since the neighbourhood was located in the southernmost region of Mindanao, hundreds of miles away.
The first attempt to rescue the children was a failure, due to a combination of bad weather and a local holiday. The team of police and IJM staff rallied the next evening, and twelve children, 6 to 17 years old, were rescued. Five suspects were arrested.
The three individuals convicted last week admitted they had recruited and used children for sexual exploitation online; they were sentenced to between 20 and life imprisonment through a plea bargain. One of the survivors said she felt “relieved” after the ruling was handed down, and her sister added she hoped the other two still on trial would plead guilty.
All of the children have remained, together, in a shelter for human trafficking survivors in Manila. They attend school, and social workers have provided counselling and regular check-in’s over the past two years.
At the Quezon City Hall of Justice after the promulgation, the IJM lawyer who assisted the public prosecutor with the case, Attorney Ralph Catedral, said, “These convictions are milestones for the survivors in this case who had gone through unspeakable abuse. The road to recovery and restoration is long, but knowing that three of their abusers have been pronounced guilty by a court is an important step.”