Between the unfathomable stalling, negligence and gross inefficiency of the country’s law courts and the all-too-familiar grandstanding, squabbling and time wasting of Congress, the Philippines has managed to maintain its high ranking as a global leader in the child-cybersex industry. It’s been building its reputation with paedophiles and other perverts around the world for several years, so that today it’s indisputably a major child-sex-abuse marketplace with an international online clientele of webcammers. Over the past five years business has boomed.
But it’s not like nobody saw this coming. We can go back a full 10 years, to 2007 when six years into deliberations on what would in a further five years become the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, lawmakers noted that online child sex had already arrived and needed to be addressed. It wasn’t, however, deemed a high priority.
And then when the legislation was finally passed into law, the ever-dependable Supreme Court got involved and started looking at the Act’s constitutionality. That “noble” body issued a temporary restraining order and then extended it and managed to stall the Act’s implementation for another year and a half. So, after 11 years in the making it was signed into law by then president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino on 11 September 2012 and finally got clearance from the Supreme Court on 18 February 2014.
Among the sections struck out by the Supreme Court was one authorising the Justice Secretary to block access to websites allegedly linked to cybercrime, deeming it unconstitutional – in its words, that section was “a restriction on the freedom of expression over cyberspace”.
We’re sure the deviants who prey on three- and four-year-old indigent girls, instructing them to perform lewd aberrant acts to sate their appetites for sadism and every other form of depravity would agree with the judges.
Meanwhile, the child online-sex market in the Philippines flourished – way beyond any paedophile’s wildest sickest fantasy. And much of that is thanks to the lawmakers and the lawyers and the judges. One month before the Supreme Court gave the ‘all-clear’ Senior Superintendent Gilbert Sosa, as head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group – the lead agency in this fight – told a news conference, following a child-porn bust: “We are the origin. The source … a top 10 [purveyor of child sex]”
Let‘s not understate this. What Sosa was saying was that the Philippines is where the raw materials – the children – for building what today is estimated to be a US$1-billion-a-year industry in the Philippines are found in plentiful numbers. In poor children the Philippines is rich. When a child is porn
And he was right. The first major international case of real-time, online child sex was reported in 2011; it was in the Philippines. In 2013, a Netherlands-based children’s-rights organisation, Terre des Hommes, produced a life-like computer-animated avatar named Sweetie as part of a sting operation to catch online paedophiles. Sweetie was described as a 10-year old Filipina girl and after 10 weeks in chat rooms, 1,000 men in 71 countries had made her acquaintance.
In January 2014, police in Britain, Australia and the Philippines successfully dismantled a pedophile ring that live-streamed sexual abuse of Filipino children as young as six. Last year, a 66-year-old multiple sex offender from Baltimore was convicted in a US court on multiple counts of child-sex crime. He’d paid some 17 Filipinos to take sexually explicit photos of pre-pubescent girls and was looking for “really young girls”.
In late 2015, Interpol and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation warned authorities in the Philippines that the country had evolved into a major global hub for child cyber sex. And last year the Cyber Tipline at the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received 8.2 million reports of online child-sex offences. And guess which country featured far more than any other – yes, the Philippines.
Furthermore, this sick industry is virtually nationwide having been found in 31 of the Philippines’ 81 provinces. The worst affected cities are Angeles City in Pampanga, Luzon, a squalid sex metropolis of rundown filthy bars and cheap hookers – a UNICEF report had cited Angeles as a major production base for child pornography back in 2005 – Cebu in the Central Visayas region and Cagayan de Oro City in the third island region of Mindanao.
The PNP has had its successes, though; and recently some big ones. Last weekend an American man, 62-year-old Lee David Colglazier was arrested in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental, following one of the largest seizures of illegal material the PNP has ever made.
A couple of weeks earlier police and National Bureau of Investigation agents raided a flat in the notorious red-light district of Angeles City and arrested 53-year-old American David Timothy Deakin. In his cyber-sex den they found the mother lode – 30 hard drives, a number of computers, 4,000 names, photo albums as well as children’s underwear, toddlers’ shoes, cameras and bondage equipment. Deakin has been charged with cybercrime, child pornography, child abuse and child trafficking.
The most disturbing case to emerge in the Philippines is that of Peter Gerard Scully, a 54-year-old Australian who’s facing 75 charges involving rape, torture, imprisonment and sexual abuse of at least eight girls and the murder of an 11 year old girl. He’s also alleged to have produced pay-per-view streaming of children being tortured and raped and a video – entitled “Daisy’s Destruction” – of an 18-month-old toddler being sexually abused which he sold to his international clients for US$10,000.
In all these cases and many more the police and other law-enforcement agencies did their job. But now we’re back to the courts and as usual we can expect horrendous delays. Scully’s trial, for example, started last September; but because of the perpetually gridlocked judicial system in the Philippines it’s expected to take years before it’s concluded. So far he’s only appeared to enter a not-guilty plea. The same will go for the other two ‘gentlemen’ who were recently arrested.
For crimes as horrific as these, the Philippines needs to set up special courts – to remove these cases from the logjam and expedite them. If it doesn’t and this sick industry continues to grow at the rate it has been doing, there can never be any justice for the victims – and there’s going to be plenty more victims.
No doubt there’ll be some legal argument against that – there usually is in the Philippines; whatever’s proposed. But don’t the judges and the legal fraternity have children of their own? Don’t they, as parents, wonder how they can help? More to the point, don’t they wonder, like the rest of the nation, why the processing of cases takes longer there than practically anywhere else on Earth?
Meanwhile, the lawmakers had their chance of making a difference when they debated proposals to reintroduce the death penalty for a host of heinous acts – including murder, infanticide, rape and kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
However, all those were shed as capital offences when the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Bill in March. So that removes death as a deterrent for anyone who has the desire to brutalize a child. Again, we’re fairly sure those who do have that desire – the perverts who pay around PHP1,000 to watch and direct the action as an 8-year-old girl is being sodomised by a sweating 60-year-old male will applaud their decision.
The point is, the Philippines is now recognised as one of the most prolific operators of child cyber sex in the world – it may even be the biggest. It’s also recognised for having one of the slowest judicial systems in the world. If you add those two facts together what you get is a sales pitch for ‘paedophile paradise’ that sits over the archipelago like a magnet drawing evermore sex freaks to link up with poor and vulnerable children via webcam to consummate their depravity.
These islands now have the perfect storm; an abundance of poverty – and within that demographic, a limitless supply of children – high-speed Internet access and English, enabling the children’s pimps (often their parents or neighbours) to communicate easily with clients in America, Europe and Australia.