AFP intel leads to record child rescue operation in the Philippines
This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and Philippine National Police
AFP intelligence has led to 16 children in the Philippines being removed from harm by the Philippine National Police (PNP), believed to be the most child abuse victims rescued at one time.
The children, the youngest aged 10, were found during warrants in the Northern Philippines late last month (22 and 23 June, 2023) as a result of an international child protection investigation.
The investigation started in January 2023 after Australian Border Force (ABF) officers at Sydney Airport examined a man’s baggage upon his return from the Philippines.
ABF officers inspected the man’s phone and allegedly found child abuse material and messages detailing his intent to pay a facilitator who would enable him to sexually abuse children in the Philippines.
The AFP was alerted and began investigating the activities of the Queensland man, 56.
He was later charged with three offences and the AFP shared intelligence gathered during the investigation to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC). This resulted in further investigations by the PNP, with the support of the AFP and other PICACC members.
Last week PNP executed multiple warrants at four locations in Taguig and Nueva Vizcaya, where the 16 children were found. They have been placed into the care of the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Investigations by PNP remain ongoing to find other children allegedly identified during the investigation.
AFP Senior Officer in Manila, Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins, said the AFP worked tirelessly with partners in Australia and internationally, to detect and disrupt anyone involved in the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
“This case highlights how vital it is for law enforcement agencies to share intelligence and resources globally, because predators are not confined by borders,” D/Supt Perkins said.
“This is a record number of children rescued in a single operation and we are grateful to be able to support the efforts of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre to remove these children from harm.
“However, these children’s lives have been irrecoverably damaged and we know there are too many other children still at risk.
"That is why we will never give up our fight to keep children safe and stop those who try to exploit or abuse them.”
ABF Superintendent Phillip Anderson said the border is the first line of defence for the Australian community against a wide range of very real threats.
“For ABF officers at the border, community protection is their number one priority and they will stop at nothing to protect children from this truly abhorrent crime type,” Supt Anderson said.
“Results like we see today highlight the importance of the work our officers conduct at the border alongside our partners, and also sends a very strong message to those who try to engage in this atrocious behaviour.
“Our message is very simple – anyone committing this illegal activity can expect to be detected by the ABF and its partners, and to face the full legal consequences for their vile actions.”
Chief of the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Centre, Police Colonel Portia Manalad said the PNP could not tackle this crime alone.
“We must collaborate with our international partners, such as the AFP, to arrest offenders and rescue child victims,” she said.
The Queensland man has been charged with:
- Intentionally importing tier 2 goods without approval, contrary to section 233BAB(5) of the Customs Act 1901 (Cth);
- Possessing child abuse material obtained or accessed using a carriage service, contrary to section 474.22A of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth); and
- Grooming a person to make it easier to engage in sexual activity with a child outside of Australia, contrary to section 272.15A of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
A Sydney magistrate has issued an arrest warrant for the man after he allegedly failed to attend a scheduled court appearance on 30 May, 2023.
The PICACC has yielded significant results in the Philippines and abroad since its inception in February 2019. As 29 June, 2023, PICACC operations have resulted in 611 victims being removed from harm and 127 alleged facilitators arrested.
Of these, the rescue of 218 victims internationally and the arrest of 49 alleged offenders were a direct result of AFP International Command members in the Philippines facilitating and value-adding to referrals from Australian-based investigations. This includes a girl, 6, who was rescued by PNP earlier this month.
The PICACC was jointly established in 2019 with the Philippine National Police, Philippine National Bureau of Investigation, Australian Federal Police, UK National Crime Agency and the International Justice Mission. The Netherlands Police has also joined the PICACC.
The International Justice Mission (IJM) provides legal and logistical support to PNP Women and Children Protection Center, as well as aftercare to victim survivors.
Note to media:
Use of term 'CHILD ABUSE' MATERIAL not ‘CHILD PORNOGRAPHY’
The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.
Use of the phrase ‘child pornography’ is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:
- indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
- conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.
Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297