By LIGALIG MIKE ORTEGA
Local authorities at a northwestern town in Bohol are still reeling from shock and disbelief that a cybersex den has been operating in their place for years without the knowledge of law enforcers and government officials.
But the clandestine criminal operation, perpetrated by a former fish vendor, was finally busted Friday by the Calape Police Station, who was tipped off by the International Justice Mission (IJM) of the never-been-heard-of cybersex scandal in a secluded area in Bohol.
It was not clear whether the for-sale videos of sexual acts were broadcast via a free social media platform, Facebook Live, a possibility that should alarm parents on their level of Facebook tolerance for their kids.
Police Officer 3 Christopher Gabonada, in an interview with The Bohol Tribune yesterday, said that the suspect is now detained at the Calape PNP Station.
Anti-human trafficking and cybercrime charges will be filed against the suspect, a married woman, on Monday.
Upon instruction by Senior Inspector Cresente A. Gurrea, chief of Calape Police Station, Gabonada declined to identify the name of the female suspect, including the other personal details about the cybercrime perpetrator due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Police, as mandated by law, cannot likewise release the names of the victims to media, especially if the criminal activity involves minors.
But a report by the IJM disclosed that four victims, including two minors, had been rescued from an alleged cybersex operator in Barangay Sta. Cruz, Calape, Bohol.
The IJM said in its succinct press statement that “twelve rescued from cybersex trafficking in two operations in the Philippines.” Four of the 12 victims referred in the IJM report are from Bohol.
IJM and Cebu authorities rescued four girls and women. This is following an operation just a few days before when seven children as young as 2 years old and one woman were rescued, IJM said in a report.
Police arrested the suspects who had set up the live-streaming abuse shows in both cases, the report said.
“Thanks to IJM supporters and local authorities – all of these survivors are safe,” the nongovernmental organization said.
International Justice Mission is a global organization that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world, the organization’s Facebook Page said.
IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems, the FB page noted.
“We combat slavery, sex trafficking, property grabbing, police abuse of power and sexual violence in nearly 20 communities throughout Africa, Latin America and South and Southeast Asia,” the advocacy group said.
“Our vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible,” it added.
PO3 Gabonada in an interview had declined to provide details how IJM got wind of the cybersex den in Calape, Bohol.
“Nakurat pud mi, Sir. Wa pud mi magtuo nga naa na diay ni sa among lungsod,” Gabonada said in the interview with this writer.
“Kasagaran ni mahitabo sa mga dagkong syudad ra man,” the police officer added.
Gabonada said the suspect, who is in her 30s, is originally from Sagbayan town, Bohol, but had since lived in Calape after marrying a man from the town.
Initial investigation revealed that the suspect used to sell fish – and claimed that poverty had pushed her to engage in selling live-streaming videos of young females doing sexual acts to foreign clients.
Reports said the suspect makes at least $150 per girl who performs sexual acts on live-stream videos, watched by foreign maniacs.
According to PO3 Gabonada, the police had seized from the suspect phones and other gadgets used in her online racket.
A bankbook, which contains an P80,000 deposit, was also recovered from the crime scene, which happens to be the residential house of the suspect.
Gabonada said the suspect had installed a high-speed broadband Internet connection in her home as her illicit cyber business was providing her a steady flow of dollar income.
The police had also detained the 12-year-old son of the suspect, who was at the crime scene when the police raided the mother’s house.