MARCH 11, 2020 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) celebrated its first-year anniversary today in Camp Crame in Manila. Since its inauguration on February 27, 2019, PICACC has been firm on pursuing its mission of combatting the online exploitation of children. The online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) is one of the most alarming forms of human trafficking in the Philippines today. Sex offenders and predators anywhere in the world can search online and pay to direct the sexual abuse of children.
The PICACC, a model for an enhanced global response against OSEC, is a cooperation among local and international law enforcement, namely the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC), the National Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Human-Trafficking Division (NBI-AHTRAD), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (UK NCA); in partnership with non-government organization, International Justice Mission (IJM).
In its first year, the PICACC has had 41 operations which led to the rescue of 136 victims and children-at-risk of OSEC and the arrest of 41 suspected OSEC local traffickers. 3 traffickers have been convicted and 36 have ongoing adjudication.
Atty. Janet Francisco, Chief of NBI-AHTRAD is pleased to witness the strides the PICACC has made, working together to save the children from online sexual exploitation. She said, “We want the PICACC to be the biggest threat to perpetrators of OSEC. We will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of those who take advantage of our children.”
One of the highlights from the many accomplishments of the PICACC last year took place on April 12, 2019. On that day, a joint operation between PNP-WCPC and NBI-AHTRAD, supported by the PICACC, resulted in the arrest of Europol’s most wanted criminal, Nelson Turayno, who on December 16, 2019 was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to producing child sexual exploitation materials under Republic Act No. 9775. Turayno is still facing other charges of qualified trafficking, acts of lasciviousness and rape.
PBGEN Alessandro Abella, Chief of the PNP-WCPC is honored by the work of his team and the partners who support them. “We are grateful for the deepening support and partnership among local and international law enforcement agencies. The PICACC’s successes benefits the world. We will continue to grow in our ability to detect, investigate, and enforce the law to ensure that the victims of OSEC are rescued and that their perpetrators both here and abroad are brought to account for their crimes,” Abella said.
The AFP and the UK NCA built investigation capability through delivery of strategic training to enhance the law enforcement response and activities conducted by the PNP-WCPC and NBI-AHTRAD and their corresponding regional officers. Further, both agencies have brought key PNP and NBI leadership and investigators to their respective jurisdictions to learn about their country’s enforcement strategies. These trainings aim to increase capability of law enforcement to bring rescue to children victimized by this crime.
Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins, AFP Senior Officer to the Philippines reinforced the AFP’s continued commitment to the PICACC stating that combatting child exploitation within Australia and offshore, including the Philippines, is a key priority for the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.
“Our collaborative cross-border efforts to protect children have significantly increased since the establishment of the PICACC. Child sex offenders operating in the Philippines and abroad have been disrupted and child victims of online sexual exploitation have been rescued and removed from harm. Furthermore, the work undertaken by the PICACC has strengthened prosecution cases in Australia, identified further suspect offenders and generated intelligence leads and more investigations,” Perkins remarked.
Similarly, according to Richard Bradley, UK NCA’s International Liaison Officer to the Philippines, the NCA are very happy to be involved with such a significant project for the Philippines and contributing to the capabilities of law enforcement in tackling this major criminal threat.
“Dealing with child abuse is a priority area for the NCA and the potential for UK offenders to exploit vulnerable children in the Philippines and elsewhere is a threat that we are determined to tackle. Our work with the PICACC is central to the UK effort in the region and we are pleased with the progress so far and the potential for further development in the future. NCA looks forward to continued success with the project,” said Bradley.
Because of the PICACC, member agencies are better able to understand the legal framework from numerous jurisdictions all around the world; strengthening their ability to combat both the demand and supply side of OSEC. The PICACC is designed to allow these organizations to achieve the desired outcome, which is, ultimately, perpetrator accountability and the rescue of children victimized by OSEC. Conducting OSEC investigations in the Philippines, from the PICACC, provides international law enforcement agencies with the information needed to build cases against both local traffickers and foreign perpetrators.
Other law enforcement agencies have also joined in the fight against OSEC with their participation in the activities of the Center. These agencies include the Philippine Department of Justice Office of Cybercrime (DOJ OOC), the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the National Police of the Netherlands, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Nordic Liaison Office (NLO).
Aaron Steps, FBI Legal Attaché in Manila, greatly values its relationship with the PICACC and the resulting collaboration among all the law enforcement and NGO partners represented. He said, “The PICACC has proven itself to be an instrumental force in combating the exploitation of children in the Philippines and in holding accountable those who would harm the most vulnerable among us. We remain united with our partners in combating the exploitation of children in the Philippines and look forward to our continued collaboration.”
The PICACC, led by NBI-AHTRAD and PNP-WCPC, serves as a model showing how international collaboration is an incredible tool in fighting OSEC. It is continuing to expand its capability, personnel, and facilities to increase and strengthen its ability to rescue and protect the survivors of OSEC. ***