US arrest: A breakthrough in protection of Filipino children and fighting human trafficking
Tacloban City (25 October) -- The news which narrated how a 64-year-old American citizen was arrested and arraigned in the second week of October, 2009 in Hollywood, Florida, for allegedly coming to the Philippines in 2007 and 2008 to engage in illicit sex with two Filipino girls, should give a strong message that the Philippine government will pursue the culprits no matter where they are.
The excellent international cooperation between Philippine and US law enforcement agencies made possible this arrest and should serve as a warning.
A report from the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida identified the suspect as Donald Mathias, a native of Florida. He is facing charges of child abuse. The charges contained in the complaint carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the complaint, Mathias arranged with the mother of two minor female children in the Philippines to travel to that country in April 2007 and December 2007 to engage in sexual conduct with the minors, and then did so.
Mathias also arranged to travel to the Philippines in December 2008 to again engage in sexual conduct with the minors. Philippine authorities, however, received information about the arrangements and rescued the children before they met Mathias.
In an interview with the Women and Children focal person at the Tacloban City Social Welfare and Development Office, she confirmed about the arraignment saying that it was Fiscal Liza Miscala of the local Family Court who was emailed by her counterpart in the US about the arraignment.
Philippine authorities arrested the victims' mother in Tacloban City in December while she and all three of her daughters, aged 9 to 14, were on their way to meet Mathias.
The two elder sisters told police that Mathias previously abused them and they were on their way to meet him again.
The victims' mother, whose name is being withheld for obvious reasons, was charged with child abuse and trafficking of persons. She is now being detained and prosecuted in Tacloban City. When reached and told about this news, the mother refused to be interviewed saying she would rather keep quiet.
The three girls are now under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Haven for Women and Girls in Leyte.
Ms. Bastes said that the arrest of Mathias and the girls' mother resulted from a tip from a concerned citizen who, with the assistance of the non-government PLAN Philippines, reported the case to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The Social Worker said that the girls and their mother are not really from Tacloban but from Sogod, Southern Leyte. They were arrested in Tacloban, though.
The authorities then coordinated with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Unit at the US embassy in Manila in pursuing the case against Mathias.
Ms. Bastes intimated that the children and a social worker are scheduled to leave for Florida to testify against the suspect. (PIA 8) [top]