Five Persons Charged in Cyberporn Venture

Officials of the Swedish National Criminal Police and the International Public Prosecution Office asked assistance from the Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in tracing the victims of a pedophile who was recently convicted in Sweden.

Senior Public Prosecutor Anne-Christine Maderud, lawyer Kristina Huldt and Detective Inspectors Catherine Norman and Liz Berglund met with Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale last Wednesday.

Magpale said the Swedes suspect that the Swedish national is involved in the cybersex problem in Cordova.

The vice-governor, who co-chair the PWC, said a Cebuana victim from Dalaguete was interviewed by the Swedish authorities. She said they wanted to find out more about the Filipino victims so they visited Cebu.

The Swedish officials said they are also checking victims in Cambodia and Thailand.

A sting  of criminal charges was lodged yesterday at the Office of the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor against five persons involved in an online porn operation in Cordova town, which the police raided last Tuesday.

Of the five women accused of violating laws on human trafficking, child pornography and protection of children, only three have been arrested. The two others are still at large.

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Their identities cannot be divulged in compliance to provisions of the anti-human trafficking law.
But since the police filed the charges shortly before the Office of the Prosecutor called it a day, these were only docketed. An inquest investigation could not be conducted for lack of time.

For the same reason, the affidavits of additional witnesses could not be subscribed, said Provincial Prosecutor Jane Petralba.

The affidavits of the three children rescued during raid had been subscribed since they were brought to Petralba’s office by the Children’s Legal Bureau the previous day.

Under the rules, the police can only detain a person for a certain period. If they fail to turn over the suspect to prosecutors within that period for inquest, the arrested person will have to be released and the incident against him will proceed under regular preliminary investigation.

As this developed, Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Director Patrocinio Comendador said the police have identified places in Cebu where there are cybersex operations.

He named Consolacion, Talisay, Danao and Minglanilla as areas where the illegal activity is conducted.

He added that the police are monitoring five operators of home-based cybersex dens in Barangay Cogon, Cordova.

Cybersex operators tend to transfer from one place to another to avoid detection by authorities, he said.

The July 12 raid is the first human-trafficking-for-pornography-related bust of the Provincial Intelligence Branch of the CPPO.

The NBI 7 conducted a similar bust last June. The operation resulted in the filing of seven criminal cases against the couple who allegedly made their children do sex shows online.

Prosecutor Petralba told reporters that the July 12 raid was authorized by a warrant issued by Judge Simeon Dumdum of the Cebu City Regional Trial Court.

Elements of the provincial intelligence branch applied for the warrant, citing suspected violations of the human trafficking act. They did not allege child pornography and child abuse.

Petralba said failure to cite the two other crimes can still be remedied during inquest, if the police allege that they noticed violations of the two other laws only during the raid.

“What’s important is that their entry is legal,” she said.

In an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, two of the three women taken into custody during the raid denied that they were in the same room where the live show was being done.

The third, mother of the youngest of the three rescued children, admitted that she was present and that she had allowed her daughter to take part in the show.

She said they needed the money, adding that she and her husband both suffer from physical disabilities and could not work. She has severe scoliosis, while her husband could not use his hands.

Her daughter, she said, earns P300 from every online show.

All three women said they are willing to testify against the two—the house owner and the operator of the cybersex business—who remain at large.

The three women said the operator recruits and pays children to perform online. They said she, the operator, rakes in a large sum of money from the activity as payments from foreign clients are sent to her bank account.

Lawyer Joan Saniel-Amit of CLB said they attached to the charges affidavits of the police officers who conducted the raid.

Amit said they have not yet secured affidavits of the minor victims because the kids were traumatized by what happened to them. They are presently under custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

In their affidavit, the police officers said that when they entered the house, they heard the voice of a woman instructing three girls to take off their clothes.

They then saw the young girls posing naked in front of a computer-mounted camera.

Jaybee Binghay, information officer of DSWD 7, said the three rescued girls are undergoing counseling and evaluation.

She said the children will have to stop their schooling since they have to adjust to their present situation.

She said the girls underwent medical examination yesterday at the pink room of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center. She has yet to know the results of the examination, though.

Binghay said a DSWD-run center is providing the children, aged 9, 12 and 17, with their basic needs like food, clothing and shelter.

She said no one has visited any of the girls yet.

She pointed out social workers and experts will make a psychosocial intervention plan for the girls based on the evaluation of the center’s psychologist.

Binghay said that even though the girls will drop out of school, they will have tutors at the center. She said the center may also arrange an alternative learning system for the children.

Comendador said they will coordinate with local governments in raising awareness about cybersex operations.

Comendador said he will also collaborate with Cordova Police Station Chief Nolie Cernio and the DSWD to hold a dialogue with town residents about the issue.

Binghay said community vigilance is needed to stamp out cybersex. She also stressed the role of barangay council for the protection of children. She added that poverty should not be a reason for parents to use their children for cybersex.

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