13 rescued from Butuan ‘cybersex den’

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BUTUAN CITY – Authorities rescued 13 victims, mostly minors, during an entrapment operation and a court-ordered search of a suspected cybersex den in Purok 5, Barangay Ambago here on Thursday afternoon.

Maj. Renel Serrano, chief of the Public Information Office of Police Regional Office (PRO) 13 (Caraga), told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Friday that a 28-year-old female suspect was arrested during the raid.

The suspect’s live-in partner was also taken into custody for conspiracy, Serrano said.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, PRO-13 chief, Brig. Gen. Joselito T. Esquivel Jr., said of the 13 victims rescued, four are aged 1 year to 3 years, who are considered children at-risk, while the rest are aged 11 years to 19 years.

“The victims are forced to engage in sexual acts in exchange for monetary payment in the amount of PHP2,000, PHP5,000, up to the maximum of PHP20,000, depending on the kind of show requested by the online clients from the Philippines and abroad,” Esquivel said.

He said police personnel of the Women and Children Protection Center – Mindanao Field Unit (WCPC-MFU), Regional Anti-Cybercrime Units of Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions, Regional Intelligence Division 13, Regional Women and Children Protection Desk 13, and Butuan City Police Office (BCPO) took part in the entrapment operation.

The operation was armed with a warrant to search, seize, examine computer data (WSSECD) and rescue operation on online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) issued by a regional court here on May 20 for child pornography through a computer system, under Republic Act (RA) 10175, also known as “The Cyber-Crime Prevention Act of 2012”.

“Personnel from WCPC-MFU revealed that they started conducting surveillance and case build-up against the suspect since December of 2019 through the conduct of constant cyberspace patrolling,” Esquivel said.

EVIDENCE. Receipts from money courier services sent by some regular clients are recovered during a raid on a suspected cybersex den in Purok 5, Ambago, Butuan City on Thursday (May 21, 2020. Two persons were arrested while 13 victims, including toddlers, were rescued by authorities during the raid. (Photo courtesy of PRO-13 Information Office)

He said among the pieces of evidence seized during the raid were cellphones, assorted identification cards, remittance cards, receipts from known money couriers, lubricants, tablets, and an Internet router.

Authorities also recovered from the suspects four improvised long firearms, one replica of a caliber .45 pistol, one caliber .38 revolver with six live ammunition, and bladed weapons believed to be owned by the live-in partner of the prime suspect.

Esquivel said the arrested suspects and the recovered evidence were taken to BCPO-3 for proper disposition, while the victims were turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 13 for processing and evaluation.

He said charges are being prepared against the arrested suspects for violation of RA 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 as amended by RA 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012.

The suspects will also face charges for violation of the provisions of the RA 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, Esquivel said.

“This commendable accomplishment is attributed to the collaborative efforts of all those involved in the major police operation. The PNP, as the prime law enforcement agency of the land, is committed to protecting those who are victims of all kinds of abuses, especially our young children who are the future leaders of our country,” he said.

Esquivel also cited the support of DSWD-13, the Department of Justice through the Regional Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking 13, the Regional Anti-Trafficking Task Force 13, International Justice Mission, an NGO, the Australian Federal Police, and the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation – Integrated Development Center, Inc. during the operation.

“I encourage all the people of Caraga to help us in the prevention of crimes and ensuring peace and order in the region by immediately reporting to your nearest police station any criminal activities in your locality. Rest assured that your identity will be kept confidential and anonymous,” Esquivel said. -PNA

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