Philippines (MNN) — A U.S. man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for exploiting kids in the Philippines. Anthony Shultz received an 84-year prison sentence last week for making child pornography.
It’s the latest international link to an ongoing battle against child trafficking and sexual exploitation in the Philippines. On August 7, police rescued six victims and three at-risk children during an anti-trafficking sting.
Compassion International photojournalist Edwin Estioko says the online sexual exploitation of minors — also known as cybersex trafficking — is a new kind of evil for the archipelago. “The Philippines has the worst and most cases of online sexual exploitation of children,” he states.
“[There are] three reasons for that: we are a largely English speaking country, we have a lot of easy online payment schemes, and then we also have so many internet cafes – even in the remote provinces.”
In partnership with local churches and other global ministries, Compassion is waging war on cybersex trafficking.
Why does cybersex trafficking thrive in the Philippines?
Every month, the Philippines Department of Justice receives more than 3,000 reports of children being sexually exploited and sold online. As noted here and here, the Filipino children that Compassion International supports are the same ones targeted for exploitation.
Estioko confirms the accounts, recalling a statement made by one of his church partners.
“The only real reason why families engage [in this] is because of poverty. They don’t have money to feed their children; their children are starving.”
Over 21-percent of Filipinos live below the poverty line, the Asian Development Bank reports. Furthermore, an estimated nine percent of young people between six- and 24-years old are not in school. Approximately half of the children not in school belong to impoverished families.
Cybersex trafficking can bring in $189 USD per child, per day; that’s approximately $9,908 Philippine pesos. It’s an attractive income source for desperate parents who need to put food on the table.
Compassion International offers an alternative: poverty relief in Jesus’ name. They’ve been working in the Philippines for 47 years, serving more than 94,000 children and 371 local churches. Learn more about Compassion Philippines here.
How does Compassion help?
At each of its child development centers, Compassion and local church partners offer at-risk kids eternal hope and everyday help.
“We are helping them [by] releasing them from poverty, giving them hope, educating the children so that they will be employed later on; we are giving them discipleship,” Estioko says.
Last summer, Compassion teamed up with International Justice Mission and World Vision to combat cybersex trafficking in the Philippines. This year, Compassion is launching a nationwide awareness campaign to educate parents and community members.
IJM trained Compassion staff members to identify warning signs of abuse. If a child is at risk, Compassion intervenes quickly to ensure that each child knows he or she is known, loved, and protected. At the same time, Compassion staff also reach out to IJM for further action.
By sponsoring a child through Compassion, you can help introduce little ones to Christ, meet their daily needs, and protect them from online predators. Most importantly, remember to pray. We’ve listed a few prompts in the sidebar.
“Please do continue to pray for our country, for Filipino children, [and] the non-beneficiaries of Compassion,” Estioko requests.
“Pray for safety from online predators.”
Header image courtesy of Edwin Estioko / Compassion International.