Poverty not excuse for exploitation of minors, says child rights advocate
BUTUAN CITY –– Poverty is not an excuse for the sexual exploitation of children, a child rights advocate stressed following the arrest last week of a woman in Barobo, Surigao del Sur, who runs a home-based virtual sex den involving her kin.
“Millions of poor Filipinos work hard, sometimes having two jobs, to earn an honest living while those who exploit children for online sex are often motivated by the desire for easy money,” said lawyer John Tanagho, Cebu field director of the International Justice Mission.
On August 16, authorities rescued three minors and arrested a 22-year old woman suspected of running pay-per-view live streams of sex videos.
Two of those rescued are the suspect’s younger sisters, aged 13 and 15, and the third, four years old, her daughter.
Judge Retrina Fuentes of the Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 10 issued a warrant to search the suspect’s electronic devices for evidence of online sexual exploitation of children.
Authorities also took protective custody of the suspect’s two-year-old daughter who is considered a child at risk. The rescued minors are now in the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Col. Christine Tan, chief of the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center–Mindanao Field Unit said they started their investigation on the Barobo virtual sex den February this year after receiving information about the suspect’s illegal online activities.
“During our online surveillance, we learned that the suspect offered to sexually abuse her sisters and daughter and live stream the abuse in exchange for money from online predators,” said Tan.
The online sexual exploitation of children is a crime under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law.
Some variants of the offense are also punishable under the Cybercrime Prevention Law, Anti‐Child Pornography Law, and Republic Act No. 7610 which provides special protection for children against abuse, exploitation, and discrimination.
Penalties include imprisonment of 12 to 40 years.
“The successful operation is another testament to our commitment to lock up people who exploit our children online and to rescue their victims. The WCPC will be relentless in our effort to end the online sexual exploitation of children,” said Tan.
The Women and Children Protection Center–Mindanao Field Unit conducted the operation with support from the Provincial Police Office, the Barobo police station, the anti-cybercrime units of Regions 10 and 13, DSWD Region 13, Regional Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking 13, and International Justice Mission. /lzb
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