Marcus Hodge, 47, an Australian officer of the World Health Organization (WHO) was apprehended by Philippine police for alleged child prostitution, Friday night, May 9. He was inside his diplomatic car in the company of the boy and an alleged Filipino pimp, according to the head of the police criminal investigation unit. His car was parked in the basement of an exclusive apartment building at the Rockwell Center in Manila’s Makati financial district.
The WHO issued a statement confirming Hodge is an employee but said the case involved his private life and that he should be presumed innocent unless proven guilty. Hodge and the alleged pimp are in police custody in Manila and awaiting formal charges from prosecutors. Each man faces a police complaint of child abuse and violations of the anti-trafficking act. If f ound guilty, the two men could face life in prison.
Following their arrest, in a statement, Cotabato Rep. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza has warned foreign pedophiles that they would not find any safe haven in the Philippines.
“This case clearly demonstrates that the Philippines will not allow foreign pedophiles to seek refuge, or find sanctuary here,” Taliño-Mendoza said.
Taliño-Mendoza warned foreign visitors as well as expatriates here that the Philippines has powerful laws against the prostitution, sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
“In fact, under Philippine law, any person can be held criminally liable for attempted child prostitution if caught alone with an underage boy or girl, who is not related, in a room or in a motor vehicle,” she said.
Taliño-Mendoza cited Section 6 of Republic Act 7610, which says: “There is an attempt to commit child prostitution… when any person who, not being a relative of a child, is found alone with the said child inside the room or cubicle of a house, an inn, hotel, motel, pension house, apartelle or other similar establishments, vessel, vehicle or any other hidden or secluded area, under circumstances which would lead a reasonable person to believe the child is about to be exploited in prostitution and other sexual abuse.”
Under the law, she said there is also an attempt to commit child prostitution, “when any person is receiving services from a child in a sauna parlor or bath, massage clinic, health club and other similar establishments.”
The penalty for “attempt to commit child prostitution” is lower by two degrees than that prescribed for the consummated felony, which is 14 years, eight months and one day to life in prison.
Hodge, an Australian, is a medical doctor and program development and operations officer at the WHO in Manila, and has been based here for seven years.
In recent years, at least 18 foreigners have been found guilty, either by Philippine or foreign courts, of sexually assaulting Filipino children during visits to Manila, according to End Child Prostitution Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) International, a network with special consultative status with the United Nations.
ECPAT identified the convicts as Dutch nationals Johan van der Scheer and Lennart Van Empel; German national Thomas Breuer; Swiss national Roland Willy (aka as Roland Suphaphon); and Australian national David John Gillard, all of whom were prosecuted in their home countries for child sex offenses committed in the Philippines.
Van der Scheer was tried in The Hague, found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison for sexually abusing six Filipino girls aged between 11 and 18 years in Boracay, Aklan. The police nabbed him after he had lewd photos of his victims developed in a shop in The Netherlands.
Breuer was tried in Iserlohn, found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison for prostituting two Filipino girls aged 9 and 14 years, also in Boracay. He previously fled the Philippines after posting bail. He videotaped himself and Van Empel having sex with their victims.
Van Empel was tried in The Hague, found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison for the same crimes committed by his accomplice, Breuer. He also previously fled the Philippines after posting bail, just like Breuer.
Willy was tried in Geneva, found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison for sexually abusing a 14-year-old Filipino boy who was lured to Switzerland with the promise of money and education.
Gillard, a Baptist missionary, pled guilty to 12 counts of sexually abusing four Filipino boys, all below 16, during a visit to the Philippines. He was sentenced to eight years in prison by a New South Wales district court.
British nationals Steven Roy Mitchell, Michael Clark and John Pidden; American nationals James Tivman, Leon Rouse and Victor Pearson; German nationals Konrad Heinrich Jecht and Andreas Erast Friedrici; Australian national Victor Keith Fitzgerald; French national Charles Lutton; Japanese national Hisayoshi Murayama; Canadian national Jean-Guy Heroux; and South Korean national Sang Young Elih were all convicted of child sex crimes by Philippine courts.