Tacloban City—Government prosecutors have secured 103 convictions for the offenders of the online sexual exploitation of children at the beginning of the fourth quarter this year, according to the non-governmental organization International Justice Mission.
“These consolidated convictions are a testament to the tireless commitment of law enforcers and public prosecutors who rise to the challenge brought about by quarantine measures and health risks associated with Covid-19 exposures,” the group said.
On Oct. 6 this year, Biliran Regional Trial Court Branch 37 in the central Philippines convicted four female suspects who pleaded guilty of exploitation of children in October 2019.
Five victims were rescued during the entrapment operations by the Women and Children Protection Center and the Philippine National Police with the support of the IJM.
According to IJM, prosecuting the case proved to be a challenge for the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Biliran because the arrests were made before the lockdown measures were implemented in the region.
“The conviction of the four accused in Biliran comes as a deep and welcoming relief for us in Region 8 because of the challenges and hurdles that we at the prosecution team had to overcome to pursue justice for the five children who were victims of exploitation,” said
Fiscal Edna Pitao-Honor as her office had to bear with slow internet connectivity issues for online video conferencing and from traveling to different court locations.
As the quarantine measures were strictly imposed in the Visayas, the prosecutors also had to overcome various hurdles to pursue the case.
“The quarantine measures made the next course of action quite difficult as the trial schedules became online. I am just thankful that we reached a plea-bargaining agreement for this particular case so that the children rescued were spared from further trauma,” Pitao-Honor said in a statement.
According to IJM’s Cebu Field Office director and lawyer Lucille Dejito, the conviction of the four online traffickers in Biliran “speaks a lot of the increasing capacity of the government not only to successfully investigate child exploitation cases but also bring traffickers to justice, thereby protecting more children from this kind of violence.
“Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, the wheels of justice are still turning, and this conviction is a light of hope for children who are still out there waiting for rescue to come.”
On Sept. 29, the Court of Appeals decided to reverse the judgment of acquittal by a decision made by the Manila Regional Trial Court involving a Japanese male and two local conspirators who were arrested during an entrapment operation in one of the hotel establishments in Manila five years ago.
The individuals were involved in taking videos of Filipino children in various sex acts.
“We at the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking are very pleased that our petition for certiorari in the PP v. Noriaki Nakano et. Al case was granted. Because of this, the acquittal of one foreign national and two Filipino perpetrators was reversed favoring the 5 female minors who were exploited online for financial gain,” said IACAT Executive Director Jinky Dedumo about the granting of the petition.