U.S., PH form anti-transnational crimes unit to battle child abuse

MANILA, Philippines — The United States (US) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has formed its first Asian anti-transnational crime unit in the Philippines that is set to crack down on child abuse.

Known as the Philippine Transnational Criminal Investigation Unit (TCIU), the team of 22 specially trained Philippine National Police (PNP) cops will "investigate crimes with a nexus to both the United States and the host country," the US Embassy in the Philippines said in a press statement.

The Philippine team is the first TCIU in Asia, and it is notable for its high proportion of female officers, with 13 women in the 22-man team.

What is it for? The Philippine TCIU will focus first on preventing child exploitation, said Ransom Avilla, the US Embassy in the Philippines' HSI attaché. 

"The TCIU officers came from different fields of expertise within the PNP and grew as one during this training. Together, the TCIU will fight crime to give justice to victims of abuse," said PNP Team Leader Police Major Jeorge Rodrin.

Why it matters: The Philippines is known to be one of the top countries where children are abused, with the United Nations Children's Fund placing the country as the top global source of child pornography. (Rappler Talk: Sex trafficking in the digital age)

The TCIU is expected to be of great help to the PNP, as no less than top cop Director General Ronald dela Rosa had admitted last October that they may have focused too much on suppressing the drug trade that they have neglected ending child abuse.

"Dahil sa busy sa war on drugs, terrorism, hindi natin natutukan na 'yung sarili nating mga bata, infant na ginagamit sa exploitation," the PNP chief earlier said, ending his speech with a promise to add a thrust against child exploitation.

(We have been busy with the war on drugs, terrorism, that we were not able to focus on our own children, even infants, who are used for exploitation.)

Just last October, the PNP nabbed an American yoga instructor who apparently "booked" children to have them mimic sexual movie Fifty Shades of Grey. 

FIRST ASIAN UNIT. The Philippine Transnational Criminal Investigation Unit takes a class photo. Photo from the US Embassy in the Philippines

FIRST ASIAN UNIT. The Philippine Transnational Criminal Investigation Unit takes a class photo.

Photo from the US Embassy in the Philippines

Intensive training: As part of its establishment, the US HSI flew the 22 PNP cops to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia for an intensive 3-week International Task Force Agent Training from January 16 to February 2.

At the training center, the 22 cops learned entry and defensive tactics, investigative techniques, interviews and interrogations, evidence collection, surveillance, and undercover operations. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.