The unexpected success of the movie The Sound of Freedom, based on a true story about the former CIA agent Tim Ballard, who quit his job as an investigator into human trafficking of children for sexual abuse both online and in the real world in the United States, has beaten some of the top grossing movies released this year. The movie made by Angel Studios CEO Neal Harmon, on a small budget of US$14 million, has already grossed US$155 million. It is an adventure crime thriller about the kidnapping and trafficking of young girls and boys from Honduras to Columbia. There, they are sold to pedophiles and, in particular, to a jungle-based drug gang leader.
Tim Ballard, portrayed by actor Jim Caviezel, asks his CIA boss for the assignment and support to rescue some children and is refused. He resigns, goes on a one-man mission to find and save the children he sees abused online, and arrests the traffickers. With private funding, he continues his operation. With contacts in Colombia, he sets up an entrapment location on a small island, offering huge payments to child traffickers if they bring 50 children for pedophiles at a big child sex party. The traffickers go for it and are arrested by Colombian police. We don’t know if they were convicted.
Tim Ballard wanted to rescue the sister of a boy victim who was sold to a drug gangster in the jungle where no police would ever go. Tim, posing as a doctor, did find his way to the gangster’s camp and found the child being abused by the gang leader. He rescued the child and restored her to her brother and family. It is a moving and emotionally touching success story. The entrapment operations went on and eventually rescued something like 215 children. The movie credits say that human trafficking of children is a billion-dollar trade, as big as drug trafficking.
The Tim Ballad story is not unusual. In the Philippines, similar entrapment and rescue operations have been conducted over the years by the Preda Foundation team of undercover social workers working with the police and government social workers. One big entrapment project saved 16 young women and children and was made into a movie, Children of the Sex Trade, by Australian director Luigi Acquisto. Preda children convict 18 of their abusers every year.
Not all undercover entrapment operations are so successful. Another undercover operation by an investigative group based in Quezon City named Destiny Rescue, funded by America, went foul. Their undercover agents allegedly sexually abused the child victims before they were rescued. Poising as customers buying the children for the proposed hotel child sex party, the Destiny agents said they had to “try them out” to have sex with them first. The traffickers agreed to a payment coming from donations gathered in the US.
The abuse was discovered later when the children were revealed to the Preda Foundation social workers, who later testified in court that the Destiny Rescue agents had abused them.
The Destiny Rescue management never revealed the names of their undercover agents, and they could not be arraigned, and the case against them was archived. A big donor of Destiny Rescue operations canceled their support for the victims of the agents and the human traffickers. Instead, they wrongly stood by the Destiny Rescue agents and management in the Philippines, perhaps foolishly believing the lies spun by the Destiny Rescue management to defend the debacle. That’s one big sin against children that has yet to be confessed and forgiven.
The human traffickers were, however, convicted after Preda Foundation social workers presented a strong case against them, with the trafficked victims strongly testifying.
I repeat this information which I previously wrote. The convicted human traffickers, the two sisters, Gabriela and Roxanne y Marfuri Martirez from Subic, Zambales, are serving three life sentences each in prison, deprived of family, home, children, comfort, and a productive life. They are intelligent people. They knew right from wrong; they chose to do evil, seduce and groom, and train five teenage girls, 14 years old and girls over 18, to be sex workers. They made them believe that by selling themselves to sex tourists, they would have an exciting, well-paid life.
The Martirez sisters trafficked and abused the minors and others for money, believing that selling young people for sex, as millions do, is just okay because it is common practice in the Philippines and elsewhere, although illegal. Only child rights defenders and protectors protest and campaign against it.
The movie The Sound of Freedom will bring fresh awareness to the evil of this corrupt trade. One line in the movie says, “Children are not for sale.” However, the fact is they are being sold for sexual abuse by the hundreds of thousands monthly.
The Philippines has strict laws against child abuse and trafficking with flexible interpretation by the populace and weak or sometimes no implementation by the authorities. Some local governments issue licenses and permits to operators of sex bars, resorts, and hotels for perhaps a share in the profits or access to the young girls.
Some police and officials frequent these places and indulge in sex activity. It is just a pleasure to them. A research project by the Center for Women’s Resources discovered that a woman or child is sexually abused every five minutes in the Philippines as if this is a national pastime and the abuse is seldom reported. When the crime is reported, it is not always noted in the police blotter or acted upon as police manipulate the statistics to show a low crime rate and success by doing nothing.
In recent years, much of the modern world has lost its respect for human rights and the child’s rights. One in every three or four children has experienced sexual abuse in the home or the neighborhood, and many suffer trauma.
These victims of trafficking and sexual abuse are the children of neglect, boys, and girls as young as 12, and the throwaway children of broken homes. Abused and raped at home, they run away to the streets. They have no trust in the government or assistance other than being jailed in the Bahay Pag-asa. The human traffickers and pimps quickly recruit them. They are the abused, abandoned children of society.
A study conducted in 2021 by Unicef, Interpol, and Ecpat International, all great advocates of child rights, discovered that among Filipino children between the ages of 12 and 17, one in every five had suffered sexual abuse over the internet, especially during coronavirus lockdowns. That is an estimated two million abused Filipino children in total. Many end up being victims of human trafficking. If you have any way to help stop this, help us do it.