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Press Release 3 Children Brought to Safety, One Trafficker Arrested

May 14, 2020 | Angeles, Pampanga - Today the Philippine National Police-Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) and the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Human Trafficking Division (NBI-AHTRAD) conducted a joint operation as a result of their continued partnership in the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC).

The Region 3 operation resulted in the arrest of a 34-year-old female suspect and ensured the safety of three children who were allegedly forced to perform sexual acts on webcam for paying customers, referred to as online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC). She will be charged for violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act or Republic Act (RA) 9208 (as amended by RA 10364), which comes with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of P2 million to P5 million pesos. Typical OSEC offenses also violate RA 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012), RA 9775 (Anti‐Child Pornography Act of 2009) and RA 7610 (Child Abuse Law).

Despite the public storm warning in Luzon, our law enforcers did not stop in carrying out their sworn duty to the public. Elements of PNP WCPC Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATIPD), led by PCOL Maria Sheila T. Portento under the overall supervision of PBGEN Alessandro C. Abella, and NBI-AHTRAD, under the supervision of Atty. Janet Francisco, in coordination with the Local Government Unit of Pampanga and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The operation was led by NBI AHTRAD’s Executive Officer for Operations, Atty. Dennis Asistio as they arrested the female at her residence in Angeles, Pampanga. “The NBI is fully dedicated to serve the call of justice wherever this may lead us. Today’s operation rescued three children in region 3, proof that we will brave the distance wherever there are perpetrators abusing minors online,” said Atty. Janet Francisco.

“Even with inclement weather warnings, extended community quarantines and physical distance of the crime scene, our gallant law enforcers will still do everything in their power to rescue the most vulnerable children from Online Sexual Exploitation,” said PBGen Alessandro Abella referring to the joint efforts of the team that carried out the arrest under unfavorable conditions.

“Today we rescued three girls from the clutches of a person whom was supposed to care for them. I am deeply saddened by this fact but also hopeful that we were able to rescue them despite the rampant spread of COVID 19. The Online Sexual Exploitation of Children is similar to the disease because it is hidden and also widespread,” says NBI OIC Director Eric B. Distor as he compares OSEC to today’s pandemic. “I am just thankful to our personnel that we were able to conduct the operation and carry out all modes to arrest the suspect before the storm hits the country. With OSEC operations, timing is always essential and the path to justice is a road we are willing to take,” said PCol Sheila Portento.

The case build up for this arrest started on March 18, 2020 when the Australian Federal Police in Manila facilitated a referral to the PICACC where the Operations Coordination Group (OCG) accepted the referral for joint investigation between the NBI-AHTRAD (lead) and the PNP-WCPC.

The PICACC, a model for an enhanced global response against OSEC, is a cooperation among local and international law enforcement, namely the PNP-WCPC, the NBI-AHTRAD, the Australian Federal Police, and the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (UK NCA); in partnership with non-government organization, International Justice Mission (IJM).

Australian Federal Police Senior Officer in the Philippines, Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins stated:

“This arrest in the Philippines demonstrates how the close working relationships between the Australian Federal Police, Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation and all our international partners – can ensure the protection of children around the world.”

“Information from an Australian Federal Police operation in Sydney was passed to the PNP and NBI, who worked incredibly hard to identify a potential offender and rescue these children.”

“International partnerships are critical to our combined efforts to protect children, no matter where they live. The Australian Federal Police and its international partners will continue to work tirelessly to target anyone who seeks to exploit children, and we are not distracted by the demands of the COVID pandemic.”

David Cater, UK NCA Regional Manager said, The NCA are working hard to ensure that our support to Philippines partners is not adversely affected by the impact of the COVID-19 environment. We are delighted to see that the combined efforts of all the PICACC partners have once again achieved a successful result in safeguarding 3 more children. We salute the excellent work of PNP and NBI and their determination to continue the fight against OSEC in this most challenging time.”

There were three victims rescued in total. The two girls with ages 14 and 6 years old are the biological daughters of the arrested suspect. The other 11-year-old girl rescued at the scene is the suspect’s step-daughter left in the care of the suspect. All three minors are now undergoing affidavit taking and processing with the help of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Local Government Unit social worker. They will be put on quarantine to be tested for COVID 19 by the shelter’s physician.

“This operation proves that our laws are being effectively enforced to protect the vulnerable even in this time of community quarantine. The current challenges brought about by the pandemic shall not diminish our commitment to support our law enforcement partners to rescue children from online sexual exploitation and arrest their abusers. We commend our government and non-government partners as we see the intensifying efforts against OSEC even during the lockdown. The number of children rescued are rapidly increasing each week. For us, these are not just numbers but real lives on their way to restoration and healing.” – Atty Rey Bicol, Manila Field Office Director of International Justice Mission.

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