MANILA (AFP) - An Australian man has been sentenced to life in a Philippine prison as part of a notorious child sex abuse case in which prosecutors say he chained the victims like dogs.
Peter Scully still faces another trial and dozens more charges, including allegations that he made child pornography and murdered a young girl.
The Philippines has become a key hub for a billion-dollar, global child cybersex industry, police have warned, with operators helped by widespread poverty.
Scully was convicted on Wednesday (June 13) of trafficking and rape by a court in the southern Philippines, three years after he was arrested there and accused of sexually abusing and filming girls, including an 18-month-old baby.
The Cagayan de Oro court sentenced Scully and his Filipina partner to life in prison without parole and imposed a fine of five million pesos (S$323,000) for trafficking Filipina girls then aged 10 and 12, the regional prosecutor said.
"This is a big victory for us. This sends a very strong signal to traffickers that this government is serious in pursuing and prosecuting these cases," Merlynn Uy, officer in charge of the regional prosecutor's office, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"These girls were lured into his apartment and they said that they were chained on the neck, like dogs on a leash."
Scully was also found guilty of rape, which carries a minimum of six years behind bars.
He was arrested in 2015 in Malaybalay, another southern Philippine city, after fleeing from Australia in 2011. He had come to the Philippines to escape fraud charges in his home country.
He then set up a cybersex business, filming teenage girls from impoverished families as he had sex with them or used sex toys, investigators said.
The videos were allegedly sold to customers in Germany, the United States and Brazil.
Most of the people who pay to view these types of sex videos are abroad, with potentially thousands of children being abused, often with their parents' consent, the authorities said.
Scully faces another trial for a second batch of 60 charges, including the rape of an 18-month-old baby girl and the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. It is not clear when those proceedings will start.
The social welfare department said Scully's victims remained in government custody.
"The children have been traumatised. We provide them therapy to help them prepare for a normal life," regional social welfare director Nestor Ramos told AFP.
Australia's foreign affairs department told AFP that it was providing consular assistance to Scully but declined to comment further, citing "privacy obligations".