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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Two men in Iligan City were sentenced to up to 25 years imprisonment with fines and indemnities totaling PHP1.6 million after being convicted of crimes relating to online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC).

In a statement Thursday, the International Justice Mission (IJM), a non-government organization, said the two convicts were sentenced by Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 2 after plea bargain agreements.

The IJM did not release the name of the convicts as they were related to the victims, who are minors.

One of the convicts, "Mr. A," was already sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2021 for attempted trafficking, among others.

The recent conviction after pleading guilty will add another penalty of 14 years and PHP750,000 in fines and civil indemnity.

The other convict, "Mr. B," also pleaded guilty to one count of attempted trafficking, which also carries 15 years imprisonment and PHP500,000 worth of fines and civil indemnity.

He likewise pleaded guilty to two counts of other charges related to OSAEC, which add 10 years imprisonment and PHP300,000 worth of fines and civil indemnity.

Voltaire Santillan, IJM's media and communication senior strategist, said in an interview that the plea-bargaining agreements are a strategy to expedite the trials.

"Penalties are still stiff, but the good thing is the kids are saved from further trauma as they do not need to go through a full trial," he said.

Santillan noted that in several OSAEC cases in courts, the relatives of the victims are the perpetrators, making it difficult for the latter to testify.

Mr. B's case stemmed from an operation by the Women and Children Protection Center - Mindanao Field Unit (WCPC-MFU) in which local law enforcers implemented a warrant to search, seize, and examine computer data on Nov. 16, 2022.

The operation also resulted in the rescue of two siblings related to Mr. B.

In the two convictions, the court granted a Stay Away Order that prohibited the convicts from staying within a 50-meter radius of their victims even if they were released after serving their sentences.

Northern Mindanao's Deputy Prosecutor Karl Salcedo said the recent convictions should serve as a reminder to the perpetrators and people who violate the laws protecting women and children.

"The government is serious in making the perpetrators answer for their offenses. This is also a testament to the effectiveness of the collaborative work between the government and non-government organizations," he said.

Salcedo also said IJM's partnership with government prosecutors has strengthened further the Regional Anti-Trafficking Task Force, an inter-agency and multisectoral group.

Web safe

Meanwhile, one of the city-based civil society groups, 4K Xavier Science Foundation of Cagayan de Oro (4K-XSF), expressed its support for the "Web Safe and Wise “campaign to protect children from online threats.

Jayson Yañez, 19, one of the representatives of 4K-XSF, said joining the campaign as an "OSAEC Warrior" would mean being knowledgeable about "the possible harms and negative things that could happen in the online world."

Launched by ChildFund Philippines earlier this month, the campaign forms part of the ChildFund Alliance’s global effort to uphold children's rights to be protected from all forms of violence that have expanded to online spaces.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, about 2 million Filipinos aged 12 years to 17 years fell victim to online sexual abuse and exploitation in 2021 alone. (PNA)