Norway, U.S. help nab alleged child sex trafficker in Bulacan

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Suspected child sex trafficker Anselmo Ico Jr. talks to media after his arrest on Thursday.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 9) — A joint effort by authorities from three countries led to the arrest of a suspected child trafficker in Bulacan.

Local police, with the help of authorities from Norway and the United States, nabbed on Thursday Anselmo Ico Jr., who goes by the alias Jaja Jhoncel.

"Nage-engage siya dito sa mga pedophiles [He engages with pedophiles here]," said Atty. Janet Francisco of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Anti-Human Trafficking Division.

"Ino-offer niya mga kapamilya niya, yung kapitbahay niya, kaibigan niya, so kilalang-kilala talaga siya bilang nago-offer ng mga bata," Francisco added.

[Translation: He offers children to his family, neighbors and friends, so he is really known as a child trafficker.]

Authorities seized from Ico a number of gadgets, including a laptop and mobile phones, as well as pornographic materials.

Police said most of his clients are U.S. and European citizens.

Norway arrested early this year a Norwegian for livestreaming sex abuse of children. The videos were traced to Ico, prompting a multi-national effort to arrest him.

"Oo totoo 'yon," said Ico. "Nagpapadala ako ng video, pero hindi ako nahulihan na may kasamang bata kasi ini-stop ko na 'yon."

[Translation: Yes, that's true. I send videos, but I was never caught with children because I stopped doing that.]

Ico will face a string of non-bailable cases, including child abuse and violation of the Anti-Trafficking Law, from at least 15 potential child victims.

Ico's arrest drew praise from the Philippines' partners, who are part of an intensified global effort to fight child trafficking and abuse.

"This requires good international police cooperation," said Norwegain police official Sidsel Isachsen in a Friday press conference. "We are so grateful for the cooperation we have with NBI and PNP (Philippine National Police)."

"We're here to assist our local partners, as well as our domestic officers and hsi domestic offices to prosecute these individuals," said Jim Anglemyer from the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations at the same press conference.

A 2017 UNICEF report found that child sex trafficking and other forms of abuse remain widespread in poor countries like the Philippines and are exacerbated by the Internet.

"Pinapaniwala nila yung mga bata, normal 'to, kailangan natin 'to na gawin para meron tayong pambili ng pagkain, para i-send namin kayo sa school," Francisco said.

[Translation: These children are made to believe that this is normal, that this must be done so that there's money to buy food and send them to school.]

Local authorities said they will continue to crack down on child sex offenders, especially with the renewed support of foreign governments.