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23 June 2023, 12:45pm
Media Release

Child rescued and alleged abuser arrested in the Philippines after international police investigation

This is a joint media release between Victoria Police, Philippine National Police and Australian Federal Police

Editor’s note: Arrest images and video available via Hightail

A girl, 6, has been rescued and a woman who allegedly sexually abused her and sold videos of the crimes on the dark web has been arrested in Manila.

The rescue and arrest on Sunday (18 June, 2023) come after a seven-month search for the child, who was identified in November 2022 when Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested the woman’s boyfriend in Manila and charged him over similar allegations.

The joint international child protection investigation started in early 2022 when officers from Victoria Police (VicPol) and Netherlands Police (NP) identified a person sharing horrific child abuse material on a dark web forum.

The videos did not match any material on an international database of previously known child abuse material and were believed to be produced by the person selling them.

Police inquiries identified that the offending was occurring in the Philippines and that the vendor had access to a young girl.

The AFP joined the international operation and the matter was jointly referred by NP, VicPol and AFP to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) in September 2022, with the PNP urgently launching an investigation.

PNP, NP, VicPol and AFP investigators established the identity of a suspected offender and his location; while the International Justice Mission (IJM) provided legal support.

The joint efforts resulted in PNP officers executing a warrant at the suspect’s home in Manila on 11 November, 2022.

The man, now 19, was arrested and multiple electronic devices and other items were seized. 

No children were at the property and urgent investigations continued to identify the victim and ensure she was safe.

A VicPol team recently found child abuse material being offered for sale on another dark web site that did not match any files on the international database but allegedly involved the same child victim.

AFP officers in Manila then supported a PNP covert online operative to engage with the suspected vendor.  The investigation resulted in the rescue of the child and arrest of the woman, 37, on 18 June.

Police will examine seized items to try to identify anyone who had purchased the child abuse material allegedly offered for sale.

AFP Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins said the increasing demand for child exploitation material from around the world, including Australia, was sadly creating the market for people in the Philippines and other countries to physically abuse and even torture children for profit.

“Children are not commodities to be used for the abhorrent gratification of sexual predators,” he said.  

“This outcome has highlighted the shared commitment law enforcement agencies have to protect children wherever they live and ensure anyone who tries to harm them is identified and brought before the courts. We will do whatever we can to help Philippine authorities identify any child victims and remove them from further harm.”

PNP Women and Children Protection Centre Police Colonel Portia Manalad said the rescue of the child and the arrest of two alleged abusers highlighted the commitment of PNP to protect children.

“We are determined to find children who have been subjected to these horrific crimes, make sure they are safe and support them in the future,” Colonel Manalad said. 

“The trauma they have gone through is more than we can see and hear but we will be their protectors.

“The arrest of a woman and man, who we allege were involved in the violent sexual abuse of a child and produced material that they sold to other offenders on the dark web, was the result of a coordinated international law enforcement effort.

“This outcome further reflects the close partnership we share with the Australian Federal Police, Netherlands Police, International Justice Mission and all PICACC partner agencies in targeting and arresting child sex offenders and ensuring they can no longer harm any children.”

Victoria Police’s Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET) Detective Acting Superintendent Boris Buick said the result underscored the criticality of a global effort to investigate and disrupt sexual crimes against children.

“Victoria Police JACET Victim Identification Specialists stand at the shoulder of our law enforcement partners from across the world to identify children at risk, not just in Victoria and Australia, but spanning right across the world,” he said.

The young girl is now in the care of the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The woman has been charged with:

  • One count of committing acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation, or to be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child's development including those covered by Article 59 of Presidential Decree No. 603, contrary to section 10 (a) of the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act (Ph).

The woman is expected to be charged with further offences.

The man has been charged with:

  • One count of use, persuade, induce, engage or coerce a child to perform or participate in whatever way in the creation or production of any form of OSAEC and CSAEM, contrary to section 4(a) of the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children (OSEAC) and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials (CSAEM) Act (Ph);
  • One count of produce, direct, manufacture, facilitate or create any form of CSAEM, or participate in the production, direction, manufacture, facilitation or creation of it, contrary to section 4(b) of the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children (OSEAC) and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials (CSAEM) Act (Ph);
  • One count of to offer, transmit, distribute, broadcast, advertise, promote, export, or import any form of child sexual abuse and exploitation material; contrary to section 4(c) of the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children (OSEAC) and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials (CSAEM) Act (Ph);
  • One count of possess child sexual abuse and exploitation material, provided that possession of three (3) or more articles of CAM is prima facie evidence of the intent to sell, distribute, publish or broadcast, contrary to section 4(d) of the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children (OSEAC) and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials (CSAEM) Act (Ph);
  • One count of produce, direct, manufacture, create or facilitate the streaming or live streaming of child sexual exploitation, contrary to section 4(r) of the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children (OSEAC) and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials (CSAEM) Act (Ph).

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.

The PICACC has yielded significant results in the Philippines and abroad. Since its inception in February 2019 (*as at 18 June, 2023), PICACC operations have resulted in 595 victims being removed from harm and 127 alleged facilitators arrested.

Of these, the rescue of 202 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.

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