An Australian man already sentenced to life in prison in the Philippines for human trafficking and rape has been given an extra 129-year sentence for sexually abusing children as young as 18 months, according to prosecutors.
Peter Gerard Scully, his Filipina girlfriend Lezyl Margallo, and two accomplices were charged with 60 offenses that included child abuse, trafficking, rape and syndicating child pornography, Merlynn Barola-Uy, a prosecutor in the southern city of Cagayan de Oro, told CNN on Wednesday.
Margallo was sentenced to 126 years in prison, while the two accomplices received prison terms of nine years each.
All four were sentenced on November 3 after entering a plea bargaining agreement, Barola-Uy said, describing the convictions as a “sweet victory.”
“The victim-survivors and their families together with the prosecution team have been, since day one, consistent in their resolve to fight Peter Scully and slay every (delaying) tactic he employed,” the prosecutor said.
“They all want to bring closure to this dark phase of their lives and move on,” Barola-Uy added.
The offenses date back to 2012 and are among dozens of charges filed against Scully after his arrest in 2015.
In 2018, the Australian and his former live-in partner Carme Ann Alvarez were sentenced to life in prison for human trafficking and rape in six cases involving seven children – one of whom was killed and buried in one of the couple’s rented houses in Surigao City, according to state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA).
The cases against Scully have thrown the spotlight on the Philippines’ enduring struggle against the online sexual exploitation of children.
In 2020, a report by the Washington-based International Justice Mission described the Philippines as a global dark spot for online sexual abuse, saying youths were vulnerable due to a combination of entrenched poverty, high internet connectivity and opaque international cash transfer systems.
Two years later, a study by UNICEF, Interpol and ECPAT International, a global network of organizations against children sexual exploitation, found around 20% of Filipino children who used the internet and were aged between 12 and 17 had experienced some form of online sexual abuse.
In August, members of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s cabinet told a news conference the country had declared “all-out war” on the sexual exploitation of children online.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla vowed at the conference to prosecute and jail people who sexually exploited minors online, but did not detail how the law and its enforcement might be strengthened.