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Record Number of Child Abuse Victims Rescued in the Philippines Following AFP-led Investigation

In a breakthrough operation led by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), 16 children have been rescued from harm by the Philippine National Police (PNP), marking the largest number of child abuse victims saved in a single operation. The operation took place in late June 2023, following an international child protection investigation.

The investigation was initiated in January 2023 when Australian Border Force (ABF) officers at Sydney Airport examined the luggage of a Queensland man, aged 56, returning from the Philippines. Upon inspecting the man’s phone, ABF officers allegedly discovered child abuse material and messages discussing his intent to engage in the sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines.

The AFP launched an investigation into the activities of the individual and subsequently charged him with three offences. During the investigation, the AFP shared intelligence gathered with the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC). This collaboration led to further investigations by the PNP, with support from the AFP and other PICACC members.

Last week, the PNP executed multiple warrants at four locations in Taguig and Nueva Vizcaya, resulting in the rescue of 16 children, the youngest being 10 years old. These children have been placed under the care of the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development. The PNP’s investigations are ongoing to identify other children believed to be connected to the case.

Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins, AFP Senior Officer in Manila, emphasized the importance of global intelligence sharing and cooperation among law enforcement agencies in combating child exploitation. He acknowledged the irreparable damage suffered by the rescued children and expressed determination to continue the fight against child exploitation.

ABF Superintendent Phillip Anderson highlighted the crucial role of border protection in safeguarding the community against various threats, including child abuse. He emphasized the commitment of ABF officers to detect and apprehend those involved in such abhorrent crimes.

Police Colonel Portia Manalad, Chief of the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Centre, stressed the necessity of collaboration with international partners in combating this crime and rescuing child victims.

The Queensland man involved in the case has been charged with several offences, including importing tier 2 goods without approval, possessing child abuse material, and grooming a person for sexual activity with a child outside Australia.

The success of the operation underscores the significant impact of the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC) since its establishment in 2019. As of June 29, 2023, PICACC operations have led to the rescue of 611 victims and the arrest of 127 alleged facilitators. The AFP’s involvement has been instrumental in facilitating referrals and contributing to international rescue efforts.

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