Yesterday, a federal jury in the US convicted a 57-year-old Florida man for a slew of child-sex offences carried out during regular visits to the Philippines – a country that’s now become the land of choice for paedophiles globally. They enjoy Thailand; they’ll dabble in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, but the children they love to use and abuse to sate their appetites for sexual perversion, more than any, are the young – and often the very young – boys and girls of the Philippines.
Like the drugs menace that’s crippled so many youthful Filipino lives; like crime in all its forms that’s been let to run rampant in the past, child-sex is another manifestation of a society that’s been allowed to go bad through inertia, lack of resources and a set of political priorities that places party agendas above – and well above – protecting the most vulnerable and the most radically insecure members of that society. Its children.
This shameful neglect shows up the political class, the mass media, the Roman Catholic Church and, more especially, the human-rights groups, local lawyers among them, operating in and around the Philippines for what they really represent. And that’s not the welfare of teens and pre-teens. These institutions are more concerned with trying to bring down a president who won’t serve their Liberal agenda. And yet he didn’t create these problems; their apathy did.
They’ll go into instant uproar over the death on the streets of two youths shot in a very dubious drugs bust – and so they should; though their concern is not for those youths; it’s to use their deaths as a weapon to strike the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte. That’s the now-transparent mask they all wear. They’re kidding no one with their carefully choreographed outrage.
Where are their voices when a seven-year-old girl is raped by a vacationing 57-year-old sex fiend? Where are their street demonstrations; where are the placards decrying that? They’ll turn out at the drop of a hat for any chance to put Duterte or his administration in a bad light – but, apparently, if it can’t achieve that goal it has no merit; it’s not worth turning out for.
The Liberal/Left in the Philippines – like its counterparts in the US to which it’s closely allied – has become a sick strain of Machiavellianism that cares for little else other than its own pursuit of power. And among the easy victims, the collateral damage of their campaign, are young children getting damaged daily right across the archipelago. They’re the great ignored. They have no vote; they have no voice and so it seems to this self-absorbed class, they have no value.
David Paul Lynch, who could be looking at a life-term in a federal US prison for his ‘crimes against humanity’ – a charge the Liberals like to reserve for Duterte – was a regular visitor to the Philippines from 2005 to 2016. In fact, he could be in the Philippines molesting children right now if he hadn’t been arrested at San Francisco airport last December as he attempted to board a flight to Manila.
Philippine tourism numbers may be trailing most other destinations in Southeast Asia across the board, but one demographic where it’s way ahead is that for child-sex-trade arrivals. And have no illusions, this segment is well organised. Lynch, planned his itinerary from his Florida home through Philippine-based child-sex travel agents. He didn’t just arrive on spec and take what was available, he had his trips well mapped out.
He’d instruct his ‘travel agents’ on his requirements – not whether he wanted an ocean-view room or whether he wanted breakfast included; he’d specify the age, gender and body type of the children he wished to acquire. And after arriving and unpacking his sex toys and cameras, room service would arrive.
For Lynch – as with many other paedophilic travellers to the Philippines like him – these trips were working holidays; “Business & Pleasure” is probably the box he ticked on the immigration form he made out on the plane prior to his arrivals.
The ‘business’ part of that, of course, was the production of child pornography: posed still-shots and videos, dozens of which were unearthed by FBI agents during a search of Lynch’s home in the picturesque town of Venice in Florida’s Sarasota County.
The ‘pleasure’ part involved the sexual perversions he chose to indulge in with these children – and the ‘holiday snaps’ he took of them – mementos of his trips which he could enjoy back in Florida as he planned his next vacation.
The Philippines is a market leader in the international child-sex industry – and not just for the travelling paedophile population. For those who want to save on travel costs, the Philippines offers ‘webcam child-sex tourism’ – real-time trans-globe video streaming of sex acts by children for paying customers often thousands of miles away. In this segment, the Philippines is indisputably the world leader.
For proof of that look no further than ‘Sweetie’ – a life-like computer-animated avatar created in 2013 by Netherlands-based child-rights organisation, Terre des Hommes. Described as a 10-year-old Filipina, Sweetie visited chat rooms over a 10-week period. And in that time 1,000 men from 71 countries got to know her.
According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Philippines has become “the global epicenter of the live-stream sexual-abuse trade, and many of the victims [there] are children”. This trade is huge and extremely profitable. Detective Superintendent Paul Hopkins, who heads the Australian Federal Police team in Manila, has described the scale of it as “monstrous”.
The FBI and Interpol reckon there are 750,000 predators online in 40,000 chat rooms around the world at any given time. And a disproportionate amount of that traffic involves Filipino children. Fact: online child abuse is the No.1 cyber-related crime in the Philippines; it involves tens of thousands of children, mostly young girls.
In 2015, the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children passed on some 15,000 tips to the Philippine Office of Cybercrime. A full 80% of these involved the online exploitation of Filipino children.
And although it’s difficult to value the business precisely – conservative estimates put it at well over US$1 billion a year – actually, there’s no way of truly knowing its value. Images and taped ‘sessions’ involving children are traded universally – digitally and by hand.
The only thing that’s more sickening than this trade is the disinterest in it shown by the country’s elected representatives. Right now, for example, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV – one of the leading anti-Duterte attackers – is in the US on “official business”. That means the country gets to pay for his trip.
Reportedly, that business is an attempt to get US senators to dissuade US President Donald Trump from attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations annual summit to be held in Manila next month. If that’s the case, he’s just wasted public funds. Trump’s going to Manila, so is Russian President, Vladimir Putin; so is Chinese President, Xi Jingping.
But in the time that Trillanes is posturing in the States and being feted by the anti-Trumpists in the US Democratic Party and elsewhere, hundreds, if not thousands, of Filipino children will have been either physically sexually abused in the Philippines or sexually degraded through cyber links. But like we said – no votes, no voice, no value.
Trillanes is a one-trick pony; the fame he seeks to claim is the removal of a democratically elected president. Meanwhile, he’s expended little if any energy in protecting his country’s children from vile exploitation. Indeed, congressional silence – with a few exceptions – for society’s lambs is tantamount to aiding and abetting this trade in young flesh.
The fact is, just like illegal dugs, online child-sex in the Philippines has been a festering sore for well over a decade. Another legacy problem which Duterte will have to pick up, it was being talked about back in 2001 at the beginning of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration. It was talked about again for the first two years of her successor, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s term in office. He finally signed the Cybercrime Prevention Act in 2012.
But then that other self-obsessed institution got involved – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s Supreme Court which made it the subject of a series of temporary restraining orders which held up its implementation until February 2014.
In March, we ran an article about Robert Ruben Ornelas, a 66-year-old teacher from California – another frequent flyer to the Philippines – who was jailed for 190 years (just long enough) by a US court. He liked eight-year-old Filipino girls and he liked to be cruel with them. That’s how he enjoyed his holidays in the country where “It’s More Fun”.
There was little coverage of that story in the Philippines, however – certainly no media campaigns to deal with the plague of predators that washes up there every single year. But then there wasn’t much space for a story like that.
The anti-Duterte Daily Inquirer, for example gave the splash to a story about opposition senators warning Duterte against his “stinging attacks against two of the Philippines’ largest media outfits” – one was the Inquirer itself, the other was the pro-opposition ABS-CBN TV network.
The Inquirer article quoted Liberal Party Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinian who said this: “Our individual freedoms and our democracy are better served by a free and critical press”. That, of course, doesn’t include a press that’s free to criticise his party, or one that’s free to support Duterte’s policies. Heaven forbid Philippine journalism would ever degenerate to that level of impartiality.
The point is that any serious new desk that’s given the choice of those two stories will not use the Pangilinian rant for its front-page lead. But that level of copy tasting illustrates not just how poor journalism standards are, but how utterly subsumed by the political class, to whose apron strings they’ve attached themselves, members of the journalistic profession – particularly editors – have become. Simply put, they fail daily to do their job.
So we’ll do ours. Whether by politicians or priests or the human-rights crowd or all their media scribes and mouthpieces, the children of the Philippines – up to 14-year-olds, roughly one third of the country’s population – have been miserably failed.
These groups have the muscle and the machinery to protect the young and the vulnerable; they choose instead to persecute Duterte. If they spent just 10% of the energy they put into that endeavour, into highlighting how their country’s children are used as sex dolls, then they might command some respect. As it is they don’t.
We’ll be looking for coverage of the jailing of David Paul Lynch in today’s offerings from the Philippine media. We’ll watch to see if any politicians happen to mention it; or if the Church includes it in any reports it issues; or if the human-rights lobby happens to feel it merit a mention. We suspect, however, there won’t be much from any of them.
And as we put the final full stop on this story, another child has just been sexually abused somewhere in the Philippines. It’s mind scarred forever.