Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Philippines makes child abuse arrests

FAMILIES BLAMED:Attorney Gideon Cauton said children in poor areas are at risk, with ready access to the Internet allowing crime to happen further behind the scenes

AP, MANILA

Authorities in the Philippines have rescued four girls and yesterday arrested a mother and two other women for allegedly livestreaming sexually exploitative videos of children to people paying by the minute to watch.

Three sisters aged eight, nine and 12, and an 11-year-old found in a separate rescue, were placed in a shelter for abused children while the women face prosecution.

The arrests came just two weeks after Philippine authorities raided the home of a US man suspected of similar cybersex crimes, arresting David Timothy Deakin, 53, in his townhouse.

During that raid, agents from the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation rescued two girls, 10 and 12, who had spent time in Deakin’s home, and made one of the largest seizures of illicit digital content in the Philippines. Dozens of hard drives and a handful of computers must now be analyzed to search for other possible victims, as well as buyers.

Deakin denied wrongdoing.

“They got it twisted around like somehow I was using those girls,” he told reporters after his arrest on April 20.

The series of arrests and rescues underscore a rapidly growing crime in which children, even toddlers, are made to remove their clothes and touch themselves in obscene ways while adults, often their parents, train video cameras on them in exchange for payment from abroad.

Police in the Philippines are collaborating with their counterparts in Europe, Australia and the US to investigate and prosecute.

The Australian Federal Police and FBI separately provided Filipino authorities information that led to the arrests of the mother and two other women on May 5, rescuing four girls. They were allegedly making the girls engage in sexually explicit acts while people in Australia and the US watched. The women have been charged with human trafficking, child abuse, child pornography and cybercrime.

Police officer Arlyn Torrendon said she was part of a team that rescued three of the children and arrested the three women, including the mother of the siblings, yesterday in a house in Bacolod City on an island about 717km south of Manila.

“The children were innocent. They were not even aware that they were being used in a crime,” Torrendon said by telephone from Bacolod.

She said the children came from an impoverished family; their mother was a widow.

General Liborio Carabbacan at the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center said the incidents are increasing in the nation because many people are gaining access to the Internet and English fluency is common, making it possible to communicate with would-be clients.

The livestream abuse happens in many of the Philippines’ densely populated, impoverished neighborhoods, said attorney Gideon Cauton, who works with the nonprofit International Justice Mission.

The organization provides social workers, shelters, lawyers and even former US police detectives to local law enforcement, who do not have enough resources to tackle all cases of online sexual exploitation of children.

In metropolitan Manila, where gleaming condominium high-rises and stores selling designer clothes and cars stand in stark contrast to the squalor of the slums, Cauton pointed to Wi-Fi antennas rising from rooftops above a long stretch of shanties and rundown houses.

In the past, the antennas amid crushing poverty were red flags, sparking suspicion of cybersex crimes.

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