A Cebu couple who used their own children to record live-streamed child abuse for foreign perverts have been sentenced to life.
The sentence was handed down by Judge Ferdinand Rafanan at the Regional Trial Court in Mandaue City yesterday (Tuesday, October 2).
The judgement comes more than seven years after the couple were first arrested.
They cannot be named in order to protect the identity of their seven children.
The court was told how the couple forced their children to undress and pose naked in front of a web camera. Overseas ‘clients’ would pay from 1,000 to 5,000 pesos for each ‘show’.
In his ruling, Judge Rafanan said: “There is overwhelming evidence against their parents.”
The six children were not present at the sentencing. The couple remained silent as the ruling was read.
The couple were handed life sentences for “qualified trafficking”, from five to 12 years for “other acts of child abuse” and up to 20 years for “offering, transmitting and broadcasting any form of cyberpornography”.
They were also ordered to pay 12.8 million pesos in fines for the abuse.
Commenting on the sentence, Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, who is also chairwoman of the Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC), said: “This is a long-drawn battle we have had. Imagine, this is the first cyberpornography we filed against a Cebuano couple. The mood of PWC is just ecstatic.”
During the trial, Magpale described the videotape she watched of the children in lewd poses being directed by an adult behind the camera.
“This conviction sends a very strong message that we, in the province of Cebu, are very serious in our campaign against human trafficking. What could be a stronger message than this conviction? There’s definitely no letup in our campaign,” she added.
Prosecutor Lolita Lomanta, who represented the victims throughout the proceedings, said: “We already obtained victory the day we rescued these children because that was when we gave them hope. This conviction is simply a validation of that victory we obtained. To me, this is victory especially for the children.”
A private, non-profit organisation has looked after the children for the past seven years.
The brothers, who are now aged 22 and 20, are already out of the care home. One works as a cook on a cruise ship and the other is a production operator at a Cebu factory.
The third of seven children is studying for a degree in science in social work in a private university in Cebu. She is also volunteers as a teacher with the Cebu City Task Force on Street Children.
The other children remain in care.
Ms Lomanta added that justice had been done thanks to help from the USA. “This is the first case where agents of the US Homeland Security testified in a local case. They flew all the way from Virginia to testify in a local case at no expense of the Philippine government,” she said.
The agency had previously forensically examined hard drives seized from the couple at its Cybercrime Center in Virginia.
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