13 Cordova School Girls 'rescued'

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Papa Carl

At least this time it is not about "Foreigners"


Thirteen girls believed to be victims of Internet pornography were picked up from their classrooms or homes in Cordova town yesterday morning in a sweep by a joint task force on human trafficking.

Authorities said they had to stage a "rescue operation" after tracing photos of the girls, aged 9 to 14, which appeared on porn websites.

The minors were called out of their homes or classes, including two students from the Babag National High School in Lapu-Lapu City. The two were later returned as cases of mistaken identity.

Five adults, including two mothers and a man pointed to as the possible "recruiter" of the children, were brought to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 office for questioning.

No charges have been filed yet.

The operation, which authorities called a "successful rescue", jolted residents and school officials, who watched children being escorted out of their classes or their homes with their heads covered with shawls to hide their identities, then taken away onboard a van.

Eight of the 13 girls were whisked out of an elementary school in Cordova.

TV footage showed uniformed SWAT police members and the Cebu provincial police bringing long firearms as they entered buildings, calling out to occupants.

The children were brought to Cebu City and were turned over to social workers in the Crisis Intervention Center of the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office.

It was not clear whether a search or arrest warrant was used in the latest crackdown against human trafficking.

Heddah Largo of the Cebu Provincial Women's Commission said the children were identified from images that turned up in the hard drives of a computer confiscated in a May 26 raid of a home-based cyberporn den in barangay Ibabao, Cordova town where a couple were suspected of exposing their 13-year-old daughter and other children to cyber-porn in their residence.

The images were also uploaded on the Internet porn sites.

NBI officials said the adults were "invited for questioning" and were not arrested.

The individuals were parents or relatives of the minors. Authorities were trying to determine how much they knew about the children's participation in the illegal activity, and whether the adults were involved in the exploitation.

The raid came two days after a joint task force raided a residence in barangay Ibabao, Cordova town and arrested a pregnant 31-year-old mother, who was suspected of exposing her young children to cyberporn chats or video camera interaction with porn users abroad.

Cordova town, a fishing community in Mactan island, has been the site of several raids for home-based cyberporn dens since June 2011 although similar arrests have taken place in Cebu City involving foreigners.

The PWC said similar activites occur in other parts of Cebu due to the prevalence of Internet connections and the lure of making "easy money" in the privacy of one's home but Cordvoa has been the flashpoint with the most cases with law enforcement action.

In a press conference last night, Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale who heads the PWC, said the minors would be under their protection.

"We will take care of them. We provide an after-care program for the rescued victims," she said.

Magpale said they are also looking for a temporary shelter because they now have 25 rescued children to look after as more victims have sought the assistance of PWC since the phenomenon was noticed two years ago.

"It's a very difficult process. In our first case, the eldest is now in college while the youngest is now 6 years old. They are still undergoing a rehabilitative process. The sad thing is that we have more children to be rehabilitated," she said.

The joint operation was an initiative of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

Unlocking the contents of PC hard drives and tracing connections of on-line porn users abroad is the contribution of the US Department of Homeland Security.

Other partners in the ongoing crackdown are the NBI, International Justice Mission, DSWD, police and PWC.

Lawyer Dante Bono-an, head of the NBI's Anti-Human Trafficking Division based in Manila, said lewd photos of the 13 girls they rescued yesterday were on the Internet.

"Based on the evidence we seized in last May's operations, there were photos of these girls on porn sites. We later identified them and located where they reside," he said.

"They have been exploited. They were asked to pose naked and perform lewd acts on the Internet. We had to rescue them."

He said the operation was coordinated with the DSWD and the Department of Education.

"There was no resistance at all from the girls when we rescued them. They were not traumatized. We coordinated with the school principals. We asked the permission of teachers," he said.

Two mothers are under custody for questioning, he said.

"We're trying to get information from them but we will not divulge the details yet," he said.

Charges were already filed against the Cordova couple arrested in the May 26 raid.

This isn't over, he said as "a significant number" of families were involved in cyberpornography as a business.

Asked about the children's photos on the Internet, he said "the photos are still there although its possible to delete them."

NBI Regional Director Antonio Pagatpat said the drive would continue.

"While cyberpornograph is not limited to Cordova, I would assume that we have a serious problem there," he said.

The IACAT headed by the Secretary of Justice was formed to coordinate implementation of Republic Act No. 9208, otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.

The DSWD Secretary is co-chairperson. Other agency members include the departments of labor, foreign affairs, NBI and the PNP.

The first conviction of a human trafficking case in Cebu was handed down in Mandaue City, Cebu by Regional Trial Court Judge Raphael Yrastorza.

He was cited by IACAT for convicting a bar manager of a "high-end" and "untouchable" strip club for violation and sentencing the female manager of Club Harem in Mandaue City, Nicole Cabillan, to lifetime imprisonment and a P5 million fine.

Two of the four trafficking victims in the case were minors. One of them testified that she was sold to customers for sex at the age of 14. Police rescued the victims from the bar in December 2010. Cabillan's conviction was the first in Mandaue City and 108th nationwide since the establishment of IACAT in 2005.




Papa Carl

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"It's a very difficult process. In our first case, the eldest is now in college while the youngest is now 6 years old. They are still undergoing a rehabilitative process. The sad thing is that we have more children to be rehabilitated," she said.


This will continue until 'the funds' run out and then the very next day, the rehab efforts will be deemed a success and the kids will be returned to their parents / families. Business as usual. The 'victims' are given no say in the matter because if they do not claim they are a victim, it raises issues on why money is being taken to rehab them....  

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