PROTECT THE CHILDREN. Agencies such as the Philippine National Police - Women and Children Protection Center, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development work with human rights groups in protecting women and children. In Cebu, the International Justice Mission helped in the conviction of four female online predators. (Photo courtesy of IJM)

MANILA – Four women were convicted after they pleaded “guilty” to online sexual exploitation of children in two separate cases in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.

The first case involved nine minors, two boys and seven girls, who were rescued in an operation conducted by the Women and Children Protection Center Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU) on March 21, 2019.

Three female suspects, all related to the victims, were arrested and charged with qualified trafficking under Republic Act (RA) 10364 (Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act) and violating RA 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act).

The second case originated from a case buildup by the WCPC-VFU on Feb. 26, 2018, after “Annie” (not her real name) was caught offering her three-year-old son and a five-year-old girl for online sexual exploitation in exchange for money.

Several child sexual exploitation materials were also transmitted by Annie to different countries, as proven by money transfer receipts from foreign sources found by police officers in her house.

The cases were pursued in partnership with the International Justice Mission (IJM), which partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.

"Raising a child takes a village. At the same time, protecting a child takes a community. This is a testament for the cooperation with law enforcement, the justice system, and Non-Government Organizations, such as (the) International Justice Mission," Public Prosecutor Antonio Aseniero, who was in charge of the case, said.

Presiding Judge Christine Muga-Abad of the Regional Trial Court Branch 70 in Lapu-Lapu City sentenced the three suspects in the first case to 15 years in prison and a fine of PHP100,000 each as exemplary damages and PHP500,000 in moral damages.

Annie, who pleaded guilty to child pornography, attempted trafficking and obscene publication, and indecent shows, was sentenced to serve 23 years, one month, and one day in prison and pay a fine of PHP500,000 for moral damages and PHP100,000 for exemplary damages.

Lawyer Lucille Dejito, director of IJM Cebu, said the decision showed laws on the protection of children from online sexual exploitation are working and there will be more convictions.

“Every trafficker restrained and convicted meant protection of other vulnerable children who would have been abused if perpetrators continue to exploit children with impunity,” she said.

Online sexual exploitation of children is a crime that violates the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which comes with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of PHP2 million to PHP5 million.

Violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act and Antiā€Child Pornography Act imposes penalties ranging from 20 years up to 40 years in prison. (PNA)