01 philippines aus child abuse rescue
CNN  — 

Sixteen children allegedly abused in the Philippines have been rescued after Australian police found sexually explicit material on the phone of a man arrested in Sydney.

The children, ages 10 to 18, were found last month when the Philippine National Police (PNP) executed multiple warrants at four locations in the Metro Manila area and a province in Northern Philippines, according to a joint statement released Wednesday by Australian Federal Police.

The investigation began in January when the Australian Border Force intercepted a Queensland man, 56, as he returned to Sydney from the Philippines, the statement said.

After searching his phone, the ABF found child abuse material and messages detailing his intent to pay a facilitator who would enable him to sexually abuse children in the Philippines.

The man was charged with three offenses including grooming and possession of child abuse material, which carry a potential maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

However, the suspect failed to attend a scheduled court appearance on May 30 and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

“This case highlights how vital it is for law enforcement agencies to share intelligence and resources globally, because predators are not confined by borders,” said the AFP’s senior officer in Manila, Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins.

“However, these children’s lives have been irrecoverably damaged and we know there are too many other children still at risk,” he added.

The children have been placed into the care of the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development and investigators are still trying to find other suspected victims.

Police Colonel Portia Manalad, chief of the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center, said the PNP could not tackle this crime alone.

“We must collaborate with our international partners, such as the AFP, to arrest offenders and rescue child victims,” she said.

As of June 29, 611 victims have been rescued from child abuse and 127 facilitators arrested since the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC), a joint effort between the Philippines, Australia, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, was established in 2019.