TACLOBAN CITY—An entrapment operation by National Bureau of Investigation agents led to the rescue of nine minors from ages 4 to 17 and four adults from two separate cybersex operations in this city and in Culaba, Biliran province on Friday.
The NBI’s Anti-Human Trafficking Division arrested three suspected traffickers identified only as “Jessa,” her male live-in partner, and another woman called “Monica.” The two women are believed to be related.
In Tacloban, the NBI-AHTRAD operatives caught the suspects in the act of offering to sexually abuse Jessa’s minor siblings aged 15 and 17 and livestream those sex acts from Jessa’s house in exchange for money from a foreigner.
Two adults, aged 19 and 22, were also removed from Jessa’s house during the entrapment. Authorities recovered a laptop computer and a mobile phone.
In its second operation, the NBI-AHTRAD—through a search warrant at a house in Culaba, about 150 kilometers away from Tacloban and where “Monica” allegedly operated a cybersex den—then rescued seven children aged 4 to 17 and two adults aged 20 and 24.Two of those rescued were inside the house, while the others were rescued from the neighborhood, the NBI said. Several of the victims are related to the alleged suspects.
Seized from Monica’s house were a desktop computer with screen and keyboard, headset, webcam, iPad and a smartphone.
Authorities said the United Kingdom National Crime Agency tipped them of the alleged cybersex dens from convicted British sex offender Alain Charlwood-Collings, who once lived in Biliran.
Lawyer Janet Francisco, chief of NBI-AHTRAD, said the arrest and rescues in Eastern Visayas with the help of local NBI agents and social welfare and development officers “should send a clear message that online sexual exploitation of children will not be tolerated anywhere in the Philippines.”
If convicted, the suspects face a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment under Republic Act 10364 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
They will also face criminal charges under RA 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act, in relation to RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act and other related violations.
The operations in Tacloban and Biliran were made in cooperation with the Department of Social Welfare and Development Region 8, the Provincial Social Welfare Office, and International Justice Mission.
Authorities said the rescued victims are in safe custody and will undergo therapy, rehabilitation, and family home risk assessment before they could return to their communities.
“Online sexual exploitation of children is the most alarming, evil epidemic facing Filipino children today,” added Lawyer John Tanagho, the Cebu City field office director of International Justice Mission, a global organization that protects the poor from violence by working closely with local authorities.
“Everyone from law enforcement to local and national government officials to prosecutors to non-governmental organizations to churches must work together to end this horrific abuse of Filipino children,” Tanagho added.
According to IJM, Collings sexually abused children with help of his Filipina girlfriend and other Filipinos from 2008 to 2012.
Upon his return to the United Kingdom from 2012 to 2015, he also continued to direct and purchase the live-streamed online sexual abuse of Filipino children.
“This is an alarming case of massive sexual abuse and exploitation of children taking place right in Biliran Province over a period of seven years, involving 35 to 46 victims. Some of the identified victims who suffered abuse at the hands of Charlwood-Collings were infants under 6 months of age.
“Through the years, he sent a total of over 2.4 million pesos (33,431 British Pounds) to at least 15 individuals in the Philippines,” IJM added.