TINGOG party-list Rep. Yedda Romualdez on Sunday called on law enforcement authorities to step up their campaign against online sexual exploitation of Filipino children following the police bust of an international syndicate preying on minors in Central Visayas.
Romualdez, chairperson of the House Committee on the Welfare of Children, said international cooperation among law enforcement agencies was the key to the neutralization of the transnational child sexual exploitation ring led by an Australian.
“I commend the vigilance of our law enforcers in protecting our children against criminals. Their diligence in surveillance led not only to the arrest of sexual predators, but also to the rescue of minors victimized by online exploitation,” said Romualdez, wife of House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.
“Let me also commend the foreign counterparts of our law enforcers. The success of their operation showed that only through international cooperation can we successfully combat transnational child sexual exploitation,” she added.
Recently, a series of police operations in Biliran province led to the arrest of five traffickers who were caught offering minor girls for sexual exploitation online in exchange for money from an online predator based in Australia.
Five victims, with ages ranging from 14 to 17 years old, were also rescued during the operations by members of the police’s Women and Children Protection Center-Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU), Philippine National Police (PNP) units in Biliran, and other international agencies.Aside from the five rescued victims, four other children were removed as “at-risk” for assessment to determine if they, too, were victimized. They include a 10-month-old, an 11-month-old, and two two-year-old kids, according to the International Justice Mission (IJM), a non-government organization.
According to IJM, the operations were the result of a case referral from the AFP to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) regarding a perpetrator charged with child exploitation-related offenses in Australia.
PICACC gave the referral to the WCPC-VFU, which then conducted further investigation to identify and locate local traffickers linked to the Australian perpetrator.
The PICACC serves as a hub for domestic Philippine and foreign law enforcement collaborative efforts to combat online sexual exploitation of children.
The PICACC is a joint initiative between the National Bureau of Investigation and the PNP supported by the AFP, United Kingdom National Crime Agency and IJM.
“I trust that our law enforcement units will continue working with international agencies in a stepped-up campaign against sexual predators preying on our children. The House of Representatives is ready to extend its support to such endeavor in whatever way possible,” Romualdez said.
“Our children deserve to live in peace at home, free from criminals lurking in their neighborhoods and online communities. We, the parents, have the obligation to keep our children secure at all times,” she added.