MANILA – An Australian has been sentenced to 129 years in a Philippine jail as part of a child sexual abuse case involving victims as young as 18 months.
It was the second conviction for Peter Gerard Scully, who is already serving a life sentence for an initial batch of charges involving the rape and trafficking of girls.
The Philippines has become a global hotspot for child sex exploitation, helped by poverty, English fluency and high Internet connectivity in the country.
“I hope this sends a very strong message to all abusers, all human traffickers, that crime really does not pay,” Ms Merlynn Barola-Uy, a regional prosecutor in the southern city of Cagayan de Oro, told AFP.
A court handed down the sentence on Nov 3, after Scully and his three co-accused entered into a plea bargaining agreement.
They were charged with 60 offences, including trafficking, child pornography, child abuse and rape.
Scully’s girlfriend, Lovely Margallo, was sentenced to 126 years in jail. Two others were given sentences of more than nine years.
The victims and their families have accepted the terms of the agreement and consider it a “sweet victory”, according to a statement posted on the regional prosecution office’s Facebook page.
“They all want to put closure to this dark phase of their lives and move on,” the statement reads.
There were nine victims in all in the two batches of charges against Scully.
The Nov 3 conviction involved seven victims, including an 18-month-old baby girl and a child whose body was found buried under the floor of a house rented by Scully, Ms Barola-Uy said.
“This is a big victory, not only for us prosecutors in the Department of Justice, but more importantly this is a big victory for the victim-survivors,” she said.
Ms Barola-Uy said the youngest victim was now in Grade 2, while others are now adults.
Child rights campaigner Father Shay Cullen said the rare conviction showed “the world that justice can be done” in the Philippines.
But he said the Philippine agency tasked with investigating cybersex crimes lacked manpower.
“There are only 10 police officers investigating the cybersex crimes in the Philippines – only 10 for a population of 110 million people,” Father Cullen told AFP.
Scully 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 previously.
The videos were allegedly sold to customers in Germany, the United States and Brazil.
Ms Barola-Uy said Scully and his girlfriend meted out “extreme kinds of abuses” to their victims.
“They were very graphic. They were very brutal,” she said.
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 say.
The United Nations Children’s Fund said in 2021 that the Philippines is one of the top global sources of child sex abuse materials. AFP