THE pursuit of justice for victims of online child sexual exploitation continues despite the lockdowns due to coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
On Monday, March 30, an Australian child sex offender was sentenced to serve 18 years and six months in prison for sexually abusing Filipino minors and producing child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM).
Before a court in Melbourne, Australia, the 52-year-old accused entered guilty pleas to 33 criminal charges related to in-person child sexual abuse and production and possession of CSEM.
Following his arrest on June 15, 2017 by the Victorian Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) reached out to the Philippine National Police-Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) to locate 26 female child victims in the Philippines, aged between 12 and 17 years.
WCPC's Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division conducted interviews of the victims and gathered more evidence to support the prosecution of the Australian offender.
"The Australian Federal Police and Picacc participating agencies continue to focus resources on eradicating this abhorrent criminal conduct and prosecuting offenders. These trusted and valued international partnerships are critical to the protection of the most vulnerable in our communities, particularly during this uncertain and challenging time," said Graeme Marshall, acting superintendent, Australian Federal Police Manila, International Command.
The Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (Picacc), which celebrated its first anniversary last month, is a collective effort to combat child exploitation across the Philippines by law enforcement -- the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (UK NCA); in partnership with non-government organization, International Justice Mission (IJM). This collaborative international effort protects children through an enhanced global response to combatting the online sexual exploitation of children (Osec).
"Despite the current lockdown situation brought about by Covid-19, our police officers continue their valiant efforts in investigating cases of online sexual exploitation of children in the country. This current situation will not hinder us from performing our sworn duty to protect the most vulnerable women and children. The Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center is still operational to help stop the spread of Osec," said Police Brigadier General Alessandro Abella, chief of PNP-WCPC.
IJM Philippines Director Samson Inocencio Jr. said: "Based on our experience working with law enforcement agencies to combat Osec, we know that economic motivation -- particularly the desire for easy money -- is a major driving factor for this crime. With the lockdowns affecting livelihoods of many people, this economic motivation to engage in Osec could increase. We can also surmise that child sex offenders abroad now have more time to spend online, and local traffickers have greater access to children in their homes -- potentially increasing the demand for and supply of CSEM as well as livestreamed Osec. We, therefore, encourage everyone to?remain vigilant against Osec activities in their communities and when they are online. Immediately reach out to authorities if you have information about the crime happening in your area. We also call on tech companies to beef up child protection mechanisms on their platforms. Let's continue to work together to end Osec by ending impunity."
One may report a suspected case of Osec by texting ENDOSEC (space) (incident details) to 7444-64 for Smart network subscribers; or directly connect with WCPC at (032) 410-8483 for Visayas, and 0917-180-6037 or 0928-604-6425 for Mindanao. (PR)