ANOTHER YOUNG MOTHER ARRESTED

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol June 23,2018 - 10:38 PM

CYBERPORNOGRAPHY TRADE IN CORDOVA

It was just two years ago when Miriam (not her real name) gave birth to her second son.

Without any means of income, the then 20-year-old mother decided to venture into a “home-based enterprise” that would give her enough money to provide for her family.

“Pobre man mi. Wala mi laing panginabuhian (We are poor. We don’t have any other means of livelihood),” she told authorities.

That home-based enterprise turned out to be cyberpornography.

Miriam, now 22, was arrested yesterday by police operatives for allegedly exposing children to cyberpornography in Barangay Poblacion of Cordova town on Mactan Island, particularly for asking children to do live sex shows online in exchange for P3,000.

Three girls — two of whom are both 12 years old and the other 15 years old — were rescued during the entrapment operation conducted at around 10 a.m. by the Anti-Cybercrime Group in Central Visayas (ACG-7) and the Cebu Provincial Police Office.

A 4-year-old girl and Miriam’s two sons, ages 2 and 5, although were not offered during the transaction, were also taken in custody by social workers for assessment to determine if they were sexually abused as well.

Police were preparing charges against Miriam for alleged violations of Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act in relation to the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

Investigators were also considering the filing of the same charges against Miriam’s live-in partner who may have been her cohort in operating the cyberpornography business.

Since the victims were minors, the offense falls under qualified trafficking, a non-bailable offense, which carries the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P2 million.

While the law against human trafficking allows the media to identify the accused, Cebu Daily News is withholding the real name of Miriam, who became a mother to her firstborn at age 17, to protect the identities of the victims and her two children.

Case buildup

Chief Insp. Leo Dofiles, chief of the Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG-7), said it took them two months to conduct surveillance operations against Miriam.

“We received an information that she has been involved in cyberpornography operations with the use of cellphones. So we conducted a case buildup to validate the report,” he said.

On Saturday, an undercover policeman transacted with Miriam who allegedly acceded to the request to sexually exploit three minors in exchange for P3,000.

Before she could start the sexual act, operatives immediately barged into her house and arrested her.

Police seized from her two cellular phones, which will undergo examination to determine its contents and possibly trace her clients.

“We didn’t have to wait for the suspect to sexually abuse the victims. Mere offering of minors (for cyberpornography) is already a violation,” Dofiles said.

Never a harmless crime

Cybersex is a billion-dollar global industry that proliferates with easy access to the internet.

Based on a report from the International Justice Mission (IJM), a non-governmental organization that has been actively fighting all forms of human trafficking and child exploitation, majority of the customers of child pornography are located in the US, Europe, Australia, Japan, and South Korea.

For a live video feed of young girls and boys, customers either pay through their credit card or via a money transfer service to directly pay the cyberporn operators.

Lawyer John Tanagho, field office director of IJM-Cebu, said the state of online sexual exploitation of children, otherwise known as cyberpornography, is very disturbing.

“This case refutes the myth that online sexual exploitation is supposedly a ‘harmless crime’ where children are shown ‘naked.’ Stripping children naked for online pedophiles is traumatizing enough. But online sexual exploitation or ‘cyberpornography’ is so much more,” he said in a press statement.

Based on their records, over 50 percent of the rescued victims in the Philippines were just 12 years old or younger. Some, he said, were even babies and toddlers.

Tanagho said sex predators usually pay between P1,000 to P5,000 for every “live stream” of the sexual act, hence some people are easily enticed by money without having to work hard.

He expressed hope that cyberpornography will stop.

“Let’s end online sexual exploitation of children together sooner than later,” he said.

Cyberporn hotspot

Miriam is currently under the custody of the ACG-7 but will subsequently be detained at the Cordova Police Station.

Cordova, a third class municipality on Mactan Island, has been identified by law enforcers as a “hotspot” for home-based cyberpornography.

Dofiles appealed to those who still engage in cyberpornography to stop their illegal and immoral business.

“Poverty is not a reason for anyone to engage in something bad. Many poor families make a living by taking decent jobs,” he said.

“I believe those who are into this kind of job simply want easy money,” he added.

Dofiles said there will be no let up in their campaign against cyberpornography.

“We shall continue to do our mission. If we won’t be able to stop it, at least, we will be able to minimize it,” he said.

Worst crime to commit

The rescued children were turned over to the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) where they will receive psychosocial interventions, including therapy and rehabilitation.

As of May 2018, IJM has supported Philippine law enforcement agencies in operations that led to the arrest of more than 100 cyberpornography suspects and the rescue of more than 300 victims.

At least 35 accused have already been convicted for trafficking children into online sexual exploitation.

In an earlier interview, Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, co-chairperson of the Provincial Women’s Commission, said the government will step up its campaign against cyberpornography and other forms of human trafficking especially because some people do not fear going to jail or getting arrested for exploiting children.

“It’s the worst crime you can commit. This has been alarming because we see the damage it does to children. Can you imagine how some mothers could do this to their children? They know very well that cases were already filed against persons who abused children but they don’t seem to be afraid,” she said.

Magpale appealed to parents engaged in this kind of practice, saying that poverty is not an excuse to engage in cyberpornography.

“Remember, money earned through this illegal trade is just passing. Don’t use easy money in exchange for your children’s future,” she said. /WITH REPORTS FROM BENJIE B. TALISIC

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