By: Ador Vincent Mayol, Delta Dyrecka Letigio, Zena V. Magto October 25,2018 - 11:15 PM

DUTCH national Stephen De Groot,52, covers his face with his hand from Cebu Daily News photographer Junjie Mendoza inside the Talisay City Police Station where he was detained for allegedly molesting four young girls.

52-year old suspect nabbed in the company of 4 teenaged girls

They never learn.

Despite the government’s unrelenting campaign against human trafficking and cyberpornography and the harsh penalty being slapped on those found guilty of the crime, online predators continue to prey on innocent children who are being lured into their trap by money and expensive gadgets.

A 52-year-old Dutch national who was accused of sexually exploiting four teenage girls inside his rented apartment in Barangay Mohon, Talisay City, was the latest to fall into the hands of authorities.

Stephen De Groot was arrested on Wednesday (Oct 24) inside his house at around 3 a.m. in the company of four teenaged girls aged 13 to 16, who were reported missing by their parents earlier that night.

Chief Inspector Ardy Cabagnot, deputy chief of the Talisay Police Station, said they seized a smartphone and a DSLR camera without a memory card from the suspect.

The smartphone reportedly contained lewd photos of the victims.

However, Cabagnot said that the victims told investigators that more videos and lewd photographs of them and other young girls were taken by the suspect using an iPad which the operatives failed to locate.

The girls also claimed that aside from asking them to pose nude and do indecent acts, the suspect also had sexual intercourse with them in exchange for money and gadgets.

Blessing in disguise

Cabagnot said that they went to the house of the suspect located inside the Sta. Monica Estates after receiving complaints from the suspect’s neighbors about young girls going in and out of the suspect’s home.

Incidentally, the mother of one of the teenagers earlier went to the station to look for her missing child whom she thought was caught violating the curfew.

“The mother was actually looking for her child here in the police station when the rescue happened at De Groot’s apartment,” Cabagnot said.

“It was a blessing in disguise that when we caught him, we found the children as well,” he added.

According to John Luna, a neighbor of De Groot, residents in their subdivision have become wary when they noticed young girls frequenting the foreigner’s apartment at any time of the day.

“Nahadlok gyod mi kay naa sad baya miy mga bata diri nya kadudahan naman gyod iyang pagdalag mga batan-ong babaye dinha. (We were scared because we also have children and we grew suspicious when we saw him bringing young girls into his home),” said Luna.

Security guard Jimmy Sabala said he already reported to the president of the homeowners association that De Groot often violated their rules of ‘no visitors at night.’

Sabala told Cebu Daily News that he was simply concerned about the security of the subdivision and was unaware that illegal things have already
transpired inside the foreigner’s apartment.

He added that he was thankful that De Groot, who was said to have originated from Australia and a divorcee, was caught because he could have exploited the neighborhood girls as well.

Case filed

The Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC) filed yesterday the charges for violating Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 against the suspect at the Talisay City Prosecutor’s Office.

Since the victims were minors, the case falls under qualified trafficking — a non-bailable offense.

The four rescued victims were turned over to the custody of social workers for proper intervention.

De Groot, who refused to issue any statement, was detained at the Talisay City Police Station stockade .

The four victims, Cabagnot said, have executed an affidavit to make formal their complaints against De Groot whom they alleged to have repeatedly molested them for one month already.

Magpale elated

Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, co-chairperson of the PWC, expressed elation over the rescue of the victims and the arrest of De Groot.

“We have secured the children. Ang duha tua na sa Pink Center nya ang uban tua sa Talisay. Kini kunong mga bat-ana nagsugod nga gitagaan ug cash. Naanad na ang mga bata nga moadto didto. Ang maka-alarma kay gipahubo sila,” said Magpale.

(We have secured the children. Two of them are at the Pink Center, the others are in Talisay. These children were lured with cash. They got used to
going into the suspect’s apartment until they were asked to pose naked.)

Magpale added that the PWC is working on the case to make sure that the victims will receive justice.

Data from the International Justice Mission (IJM), a US-based nonprofit organization that fights human trafficking and child exploitation, showed that more than 300 children in the Philippines have been

rescued since 2011 after law enforcers stepped up their campaign against cyberpornography.

At least 133 suspects nationwide have been arrested as of April 2018 – 77 percent of whom were parents, relatives, and close family friends of the

In Cebu, law enforcers have rescued 155 victims and arrested 53 suspects since 2011.

Only 13 of the child exploiters have so far been convicted.

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