Family sentenced for Philippine cybersex den operation
Five family members, running a cybersex den in Iligan in the south of the Philippines, received severe court sentences earlier this month. ‘Thomas’ Pepito , the main individual responsible for running the webcam shows which live streamed child sexual abuse, was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of qualified trafficking. His brother, their two partners and his mother were sentenced to between 26 and 28 years in prison. In addition to trafficking charges the five were also found guilty of child abuse and of producing indecent shows and obscene publications. Heavy fines of millions of Pesos were also imposed on the five perpetrators.
For years the Pepitos ran live-streamed sex shows involving children as young as five years old. Belgian investigative journalist Peter Dupont, supported by Terre des Hommes, managed to infiltrate their 'cybersex den' and assisted the Philippine National Police in dismantling it. The operation led to the arrest of the five gang members, the rescue of twelve children and the confiscation of numerous computers. The raid is the subject of an hourlong documentary "Children of the Webcam", a ten-minute summary of which can be found on this website.
In the wake of the sentencing, captain Catherine Tamayo of the PNP stated that they will now focus their efforts on the hundreds of foreign - mostly Western - 'customers' of the gang who paid for the abuse. "We cannot do this on our own and require the assistance of other law enforcement agencies."
Since the start of their 'Sweetie Project’ in 2013 Terre des Hommes have emphasized the urgent imperative to address the so-called ‘demand’ side of live streaming of child sexual abuse. This case provides an opportunity for law enforcement to move beyond rescuing victims and apprehending operators to tackle the root of the criminal network which are the ‘clients’ who are driving the supply.