Santa Ana in Pampanga in the Philippines. Photo: Google Maps
Santa Ana in Pampanga in the Philippines, where one of the online sex dens was raided. Photo: Google Maps

Up to 80%of cybersex victims in the Philippines are minors, according to the Philippine National Police and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Filipino victims have fallen prey to sexual predators from around the world as their own family members lure them into the cybersex trade as a way of helping poor families earn money. Fees range from US$20 to $50, or roughly PHP1,000 to PHP2,000, per session or per week, the Manila Standard reported.

According to the International Justice Mission-Philippines, 80% of the victims were minors, half of which were 12 years old or younger. Chief Inspector Michael Virtudazo, team leader of the PNP Women and Children Protection Center’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, said there have been 80 recorded cases with 287 trafficked victims, while 113 individuals had been arrested.

“OSEC (online sexual exploitation of children) is prevalent in the Philippines because of the accessibility of the internet. Family members act as facilitators, there is fluency in English and access to remittance centers,” Virtudazo said. Virtudazo added that the victims were made to believe by their parents or guardians that their sexual acts shown online were harmless as there was no physical content.

Special Agent Michael Van Aelstyn of the FBI Violent Crimes Against Children Unit said most of the online sexual exploitation in the Philippines happen in cybersex dens. The FBI lists Southeast Asia, South America and Africa as “hot spots” of child sex tourism based on data from 2014 to 2016.

In April 2016, the FBI along with the Philippine police busted operations in Pampanga, where minors aged four to eight were rescued. The Pampanga den offered children posing naked and performing online sex.

Over the last two months, authorities busted cybersex operations in Taguig, Butuan, Iligan and Cebu, where several suspects were arrested and minors rescued.

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