Child Prostitution in the Philippines


 Child prostitution is a problem in the Philippines. By some estimates over 100,000 children work as prostitutes in the Philippines. Many local men who use child prostitutes are under the assumption that their young age will make them less likely to be carrying the AIDS virus but the truth is in some cases they are more likely to have it, because their soft tissue is more likely to bleed and thus pick up sexually transmitted diseases. One member of a group of children aged 9 to 14 told the Japan Times, “Three of them are still virgins, but if you pay them, they will perform oral sex or help you out with their hands.”

 While much attention has been focused on pedophiles who come from the United States, Germany, Australia and Japan to Thailand and the Philippines to have sex with children, including young boys, most of the clients for child prostitutes are not foreigners. A policeman dressed in a bee costume at a children’s birthday party arrested the father of the boy having the party for rape.

 Few children enter the prostitution trade on their own free will. Some are runaways or victims of abuse. Other are sold by their parents, who are enticed by gifts such as electric fans or a television. Some are street children who do it to survive. They are often freelancers who have no regular place to live and operate on the streets rather than at a brothel or bar.

 The Reverend Shay Cullen, a Irish Catholic priest in Olongapo, who has devoted his life to helping victims of child prostitution, told the New York Times, “These children, 95 percent of them are poor. They live in slummy areas. They’ve been abused in the home—you only find that out later, though—abused by a neighbor. They run away from home with a friend. They’re on the street, looking for a job. And a pimp recruiter finds them.”

 One policeman whose beat is the red light district in Cebu told the Japan Times, “The girls who work the brothels are not locals. They come from other provinces…The girls are usually lured into the trade believing that they can find a decent job in the city.” The policeman said that new arrivals are repeatedly raped until their resistance to performing sex with strangers is broken down. When they realize it is difficult for them to escape the convince themselves that what they are doing is only a job.

Stories of Child Prostitutes

 Many of the child prostitutes have horrible stories to tell. Some were raped by their fathers and beaten by their mothers. Other gave birth to children of men who raped them. One young girl, who had been sent to work for a puppet maker who raped her, told Newsweek she ran away and lived on the streets when she was 14. “When I got hungry, I started to take customers.” At the age of 16 she entered a Manila shelter that gave her counseling and got her back in school.

 One girl who became a prostitute told the New York Times, ” When I was 11 years old my stepfather raped me. My mother did not believe me.” She ran way from home. “I met a girl from Germany. She took me to Germany for two months. Actually it was trafficking in children. I was sexually abused there. Then I came back here. I told myself nobody loved me, nobody cared for me. So I became a prostitute in Manila.” With the help of a local foundation she was placed in a Roman Catholic high school.

 A 16-year-old who lived on the streets of Manila told the Japan Times, “Sometimes I did it for 500 pesos (about $10). Sometimes for 1,000 pesos…We do it in the car, in the park, in the toilet…Anywhere the customer wants…When I feel terrible I take shabu[amphetamines] or glue, or whatever I can get my hands on.” A young boy told the Japan Times, “I sold myself to men for a year trying to make ends meet for my family. It was easy money, and nobody in may family had a job.”

Combating Child Prostitution

 Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Reacting to the increase in cases of child sexual abuse reported in the media, law enforcement agencies and the courts have started taking this situation seriously. Sexual exploitation of minors is more frequent in the cities, in the form of child prostitution, child pornography, and sex tourism. The clients and supporters of child prostitutes and those who produce, sell, or transmit pornography involving minors risk heavy fines and imprisonment. Crimes of sex tourism are difficult to prosecute because they originate or transpire outside the geographic borders and legal jurisdiction of the Philippines. There is, however, an organization, Hand Extending Love to the Philippines (H.E.L.P.), based in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, whose primary mission is to help sexually abused Filipino children, provide counseling for pedophiliacs, and prevent teenage pregnancy. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]

 A 1992 law outlawed child prostitution, child trafficking and obscene publications and shows with children. It also prohibited minors from being in hotel room with an unrelated adult and required the government to create a program to protect children against commercial sexual exploitation.

 A 44-year-old Briton convicted for the second time of abusing two underage boys was sentenced to 17 years in a Filipino jail. A Dutch man, who was arrested in Manila in January 1996 for having sex with 9-year-old and 14-year-old Filipina girls, and video taped them with a German friend, was charged in the Netherlands for having sex with children and given a prison sentence of two years.

 A variety of social organizations and church groups have been set up for former sex workers, particularly children. They provide counseling to help the children get over the trauma they experienced and develop marketable skills so they can make a living doing something else. But Despite government programs to try to eradicate child prostitution, it continues to thrive. There been reports of pedophilia in Pagsanjan town.

Child Porn Operation Raided in Philippine School

 In February 2014, government agents raided an Internet child porn operation based in a Philippine school and arrested its president and eight other people. Teresa Cerojano of Associated Press wrote: “The suspects used a room at the Mountaintop Christian Academy to post online images and video of children and adults for foreign consumption, said Ronald Aguto, cybercrime investigation head in the National Bureau of Investigation. Authorities were still investigating, but Aguto said it didn’t appear that children at the school were being abused and that the operators were uploading pre-recorded images and video stored.[Source: Teresa Cerojano,, Associated Press, February 19, 2014 ==]

 “The school had 2000 elementary and high school students, Aguto added. Its licence was revoked in 2006 for unknown reasons but it had remained open. Puring Martinez, the arrested president and owner of the private school, told GMA television network she rented out the room to the Internet site operators to augment the income of the school because fees paid by students were not enough to cover costs. She said she was aware that the Internet links sold can only be opened by a foreigner who will use his card and that the links lead to “naughty” materials. ==

 “Martinez’ son, Tom, said the school had only 260 preschool, elementary and high school pupils, and that their permit to operate was valid. It was not clear why there was a discrepancy with the NBI information. He said the Internet operation was owned by an American from Tennessee, who rented two rooms for 40,000 pesos ($900) in a bungalow separate from the classrooms but within the school compound. All of the suspects arrested are Filipino, and the American’s whereabouts were not clear. ==

 “Gilbert Sosa, director of the national police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group said last month the Philippines was one of the top 10 sources of child pornography in the world, and that police have been cooperating with other countries to crack down on it. Two other Internet porn operations in Quezon city were raided. At least 22 people were arrested in those two raids and more than two dozen computers seized. ==

 “It was like a computer lab inside the school,” Aguto said in a telephone interview. “Even during daytime, when the pupils were there, they were using it for this kind of offense.” He said the site operators worked day and night, chatting online with clients and pretending to be women or girls depending on what the client wanted. They would then upload pictures and pre-recorded video of a nude girl or woman they claim to be.” ==

 In January 2014, “Britain’s National Crime Agency said child abuse investigators in Britain, the US and Australia had dismantled an organised crime group that streamed footage of child sexual abuse. The ring abused impoverished children as young as six, the agency said. Authorities made 29 arrests, including 11 people in the Philippines who had facilitated the crime. Some were members of the children’s families.” ==

Globalization and Child Exploitation in the Philippines

 The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported: “Online child pornography in the Philippines is a perverse twist on globalization: consumption patterns in the developed world (say, in the United Kingdom or Australia) drive demand for live online “shows,” recorded video or still photographs featuring the sexual abuse of children. To supply the demand, a virtual cottage industry of cybersex “studios” now do business in Angeles, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Metro Manila, among other fleshpots. Often, the Philippine National Police says, it’s the parents of the children themselves who serve as the middlemen in the supply chain. [Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network, January 21, 2014 \=\]

 “We feel ourage reading about parents pimping their own children, or learning that as many as 100,000 Filipino children may have been sexually exploited for online child pornography in the last several years. “Fathers and mothers would bring their children here to show, and would get paid by the owner of the house,” a police officer in Cebu said. Fr. Shay Cullen, who has spent a lifetime fighting sexual exploitation in Olongapo City, told the BBC the same thing: “There’s a huge growing demand and there’s a growing supply.” \=\

 “The shape of that illicit and immoral market became more visible when the United Kingdom’s so-called Operation Endeavor, an international inquiry involving some 12 countries, led to the arrest of 17 Britons in various parts of the world, and the rescue of 15 children between six and 15 years old in Angeles City. A parallel effort by the Australian Federal Police led to the arrest of three Australians. “Extreme poverty, the increasing availability of high-speed Internet and the existence of a vast and comparatively wealthy overseas customer base [have] led to organized crime groups exploiting children for financial gain,” the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency reported. \=\

Online Child Pornography a ‘Cottage Industry’ in the Philippines

 In January 2014, the chief of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) said online child pornography has become a “cottage industry” that flourishes in more than 30 provinces in the country, “It’s a serious problem that we have to stop,” Sr. Supt. Gilbert Sosa, ACG director, told a press briefing. [Source: Anthony Vargas, Manila Times, January 17, 2014 */*]

 Anthony Vargas wrote in the Manila Times, “Police in the Philippines, Britain and Australia reported busting a pedophile ring, which streamed live sexual abuse of Filipino children over the Internet. The joint effort, named Operation Endeavor, covered a dozen nations and led to the arrest of 29 people, including 11 in the Philippines. “It has become a cottage industry,” Sosa said of child pornography over the Internet. */*

 “He said the Philippines is among the top 10 countries identified by a Virtual Global Task Force as producers of online child pornography. The task force is composed of Americans, British and Australian law enforcers. Sosa said the Philippines provides child-pornography materials such as videos and photographs which are shown to customers in the US and Europe. He showed a real-time map of the Philippines dotted with small green pins representing the sources of online pornographic materials. “One pin represents one location and it will show you how much traffic is coming from that location,” Sosa said. One location transmitted more than 31 pornographic materials, while another had 57, he said. The heaviest concentrations of pins were in Metro Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro City. “The PNP-ACG has investigated the existence of child pornography in 18 provinces of Luzon, six in the Visayas and seven in Mindanao,” Sosa said. */*

 “Online child pornography proliferates especially in rural areas where poverty is prevalent. “This is due to economic reasons . . . there are cases that it was the child’s parents who will facilitate it and the age ranges from 10 to 14,” Sosa said. The parents earn as much as P1,000 per session, he added. The sex-web ring charges its subscribers as much as $100 a month. Sosa said the victims can be as young as 12. On October 29, 2012 authorities rescued 11 minors, mostly boys and arrested 11 suspects in Angeles City, he said. */*

 The US, Britain and Australia provided information to Philippine police on the source of the pornographic materials, Sosa said. More than 100 non-government organizations are helping the police track down the providers of online pornography materials, Sosa said. He said they found out that a child were not aware they were being victimized and abused by their own parents. “The shooting, the video, photo-session and transmittal are very fast and they [child] don’t have any inkling they were already being abused . . . the payment is usually received by the parents,” Sosa said. */*

 “Some of the cybersex dens they raided in the past months were located in depressed areas. “Houses in slum areas that have Internet connections, these are the tell-tale signs,” he said. Suspects arrested in previous operations against cybersex dens included foreigners married to Filipinas, Sosa said. The crackdown on online child pornography is hamstrung by the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order on the implementation of the Anti-Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175), he said.“Telecommunication companies also have a big part in the campaign . . . but with the TRO, there’s no legal basis for them to comply when it’s needed,” Sosa said. Under the RA 10175, telecommunication companies must preserve their log of Internet transmissions for at least six months, which Sosa said is vital in tracking the source of pornographic materials. */*

Incest in the Philippines

 Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Incest is punished severely if the victim is younger than fifteen years old. Capital punishment by lethal injection was restored during the Ramos administration. Six executions of men convicted of incest have taken place since 1998. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]

 There are no statistics on the incidence of incest in the Philippines. However, it is quietly known that adolescent girls are often raped by older male family members, and fathers often use them as sexual objects after the death of the mother, or when the wife’s work takes her outside the home for long periods. Abusive males are usually unemployed people with a past history of family violence, high consumption of alcohol, social inadequacy, and impulsive behavior. Although less frequent, cases of incest are also known in which the male is the head of an upper-class household and respected by his community. Cases of incest in middle- and upper-class families seldom surface while the victim is a minor. The trauma may emerge during private sexual therapy with an older woman, but there is a strong reluctance on the part of most victims to make formal charges. Generally, indictment for incest by judicial authorities does not take effect unless a formal complaint has been filed or in cases of public scandal. |~|

Rape and Rape Laws in the Philippines

 Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “The seriousness of rape against an individual female was brought to the public eye by the media when a famous actress was “gang raped” in the mid-1960s. The public demanded the severest punishment, the death penalty, and they got it. Execution by hanging, electrocution, or lethal injection as a penalty for rape has been on the books since 1924. The death penalty was abolished in 1987 but reinstated in 1994. In 2000, there were about 900 persons on death row, including a former member of Congress convicted in 1998 and awaiting execution for rape. Even though no actual executions for rape have taken place, the law has been instrumental in helping reduce such incidents [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]

 In one particularly egregious rape case, a congressman was accused of raping a girl that he bought from her stepfather. When he was arrested he joked, “When you do it, do you ask for a birth certificate?” He claimed she was at the legal age of consent of 12 (an effort to raise the age of statutory rape to 14 has been unsuccessful).

 After nine years of debate, the House of Representatives finally, in 1997, approved the bicameral conference report on a new law that heavily penalizes rape and makes it easier for government prosecutors to prosecute rape cases. This anti-rape law reclassifies rape from “a crime against chastity” to “a crime against a person.” Thus, if the victim is a minor and refuses to accuse the perpetrator, only the minor’s legal guardian or the court can file a suit. This new law also penalizes marital rape, but opens the door for the spouse to forgive her husband, in which case the charge is voided. The new law also redefines the nature of rape, expanding the traditional definition of forced penile insertion in the vagina to include unwanted insertion of the penis, or any object or instrument, in any bodily orifice of another person. These “other acts” are now part of “sexual assault.” The law in the Revised Penal Code also eliminates the gender bias, so that a woman can now be charged with raping a man. Finally, the law makes it possible to present evidence in court, in which presumption is created in favor of a rape victim, so that any overt physical act manifesting resistance in any degree can now be accepted as evidence of rape. Similarly, evidence that the victim was in a situation where she/he was incapable of giving valid consent can now be accepted as evidence of rape. |~|

 For many years, the law against rape in the Philippines was described as a law against chastity. This meant that sexually experienced woman often difficulty proving they were raped because they were not virgins. Defense lawyers routinely had rape cases thrown out by arguing the victims was promiscuous because she wasn’t a virgin and therefore her chastity was not harmed.

 In the mid 1990s, rape-reform became hot topic as reformers attempted to get the law changed so that rape victims were rape victims regardless of whether they were virgins, chaste or no chaste or married. Reformers also wanted to expand the definition of rape from penile penetration to oral and anal penetration with hand and other objects.

 The Philippines used to have the death penalty for rape. No rapist however was executed. One lawmaker suggested in 1995 that convicted rapists should have their penises amputated. “Considering the chauvinistic attitude of most Filipino males, having one’s sexual organ cut off is worse than death itself,” the lawmaker said.

Sexual Harassment and Abuse in the Philippines

 Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: The Euro-American concept of sexual harassment has no place in the tradition of Filipina subservience to males that is part of marianismo, the symbiotic culture to machismo. However, the experience of sexual harassment is emerging in the social consciousness, as Filipinas respond to Western influences and begin to assert their personal and political rights. Women from the barrios and small towns are easily intimidated, but it is the sophisticated and well-educated women who challenge the “old-boy buddy” system and file complaints. Sexual harassment is punished through an administrative indictment that may end with a dismissal from public service. The administrative procedure, however, does not preclude legal action by the alleged perpetrator. The strength of the current law shows that Filipinas are expanding their political presence/clout, and winning the support of men, who know the problem well from inside the system. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]

 Despite a long colonial period during which wealthy hacienderos controlled and regularly exploited their indigenous female employees without fear that the victims might find some recourse in the justice system, recent educational reforms and the transition to a democratic government are producing a more humane society. However, there is still considerable violence within Filipino households perpetrated by the male head of the household. Abuse of this kind is seldom reported to police, because women know that the male police usually behave in the same way in their homes. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]

 Attention on work rape was brought to the fore after a married chamber of commerce executive said she was raped by her boss in a motel after a business meeting. The case was significant in that married women usually stay quiet after being raped so as not to humiliate their husbands and families. The boss was arrested and imprisoned.

 In the poorest households, girls are conditioned from infancy to accept the violent behavior of their fathers, particularly when they return home intoxicated. The initial physical abuse may lead to sexual intercourse that amounts to marital rape. Faced with a society that until recently did not recognize the possibility of marital rape or a woman’s basic rights, abused women capitulate, repress their feelings, retreat into their taciturn dreams, and continue laboring for the survival of their families, especially their offspring. Even then, if she does not manage to hide at least some of her earnings, the husband may spend them with another woman or drinking with friends. Local newspapers occasionally report domestic incidents when a wife inflicts serious genital damage on her husband while resisting his violent carnal advances. Philippine Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) statistics reported that in the first three quarters of 1998, there were at least 1,152 cases of rape and attempted rape, 656 cases of incest, and 400 cases of lasciviousness. |~|

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.