CEBU CITY – A woman described as a sexual predator who lured children and forced them to perform lewd acts was arrested by government agents in Cebu, ending a manhunt that lasted nearly two years.
Liezyl Margallo, 23, was arrested on Wednesday by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation while strolling on the beach of Malapascua Island, a famed tourist spot off the Cebu town of Daanbantayan.
Her Australian boyfriend and accomplice, Peter Gerard Scully, 53, was arrested in February 2015 and is now in a Cagayan de Oro City jail.
Both are accused of child trafficking and of running a lucrative international cyberpornography trade, a global syndicate with members coming from from Brazil, Germany and Britain, authorities said.
Margallo has 16 pending arrest warrants in Cagayan de Oro City for luring female street children and young scavengers and then forcing them to perform sexual acts. She also tortured them while videotaping the sexual acts. One victim was later killed, her remains found buried near a bathroom.
A video provided by the Dutch police showed a naked 1-year-old girl who was hung upside down with her hands tied and legs drawn apart.
The girl, known in the video as “Daisy,” was crying while being tortured and sexually assaulted by a masked older girl, later identified as Margallo.
She repeatedly whipped the toddler with a belt, taped her lips to silence her and dripped candle wax on her private parts. Agents had described it as the “worst video” they had seen in their years of fighting child pornography.
The couple allegedly victimized at least nine children, including a 12-year-old girl, whose remains were exhumed in Scully’s apartment in Surigao City. The eight others, aged one to 12 years old, were rescued in 2015 and are currently in government custody. Two others were later rescued by the police in a separate operation.
“It was too much. There are really just some people who are not afraid of God. Children were treated like dolls. They were tortured and exposed to too much pain,” said Janet Francisco, head of the NBI’s Anti-Human Trafficking Division. “Anyone who (does) that is not normal. I could not help but cry when I saw the video.”
Margallo was to be flown to Cagayan de Oro city where she would be charged with violating Republic Act No. 9995 or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009; Republic Act No. 9610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act; and Republic Act No. 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
Since the victims are minors, the offense falls under qualified trafficking—a nonbailable crime. If convicted, the couple could spend life in prison and be fined anywhere from P2 million to P5 million.
The videos Scully uploaded to the internet sparked a global manhunt.
A Filipino member of the Interpol first noticed that one of the girls on the video spoke Visayan, and from there focused the investigation in the Philippines, said NBI-7 Assistant Director Dominador Cimafranca.
The NBI tracked down Margallo with the help of the Australian Federal Police, and this week, pounced on her on Malapascua Island, where she was with two British nationals. They were briefly questioned, but later freed after presenting valid travel documents.
“If I were to describe her (Margallo), I would call her a ‘savage girl’ for what she has done to the kids. I think that description fits her,” Cimafranca said.
He said Margallo had first identified herself as Shannon Carpio when confronted, but later admitted her identity when shown a copy of the arrest warrants and her picture. Recovered from her were a laptop and a cell phone, which would be submitted for forensic examination.
Francisco said Margallo was arrested along with Scully in 2015, and admitted her participation in the Australian’s sex video racket. She later led the NBI to Scully’s rented home in Surigao City, where the body of the 12-year-old girl was buried.
The NBI, however, did not have an arrest warrant against Margallo at the time so they let her go. Arrest warrants against her were issued only the following year, by which time she had gone on the lam.
Francisco said the deceased young girl was molested and tortured by Scully sometime in August 2012. She was a scavenger from Cagayan de Oro City entrusted to Margallo, who promised her guardians she would be well looked after.
“But the girl eventually became a slave, treated like a dog, and videotaped while being tortured. In fact, a bolo was inserted into the child’s butt,” Francisco said. The girl, identified only as “Cindy,” died due to strangulation and internal bleeding.
Her remains were found covered with concrete near the bathroom of Scully’s rented home.
Scully, a father of two, was under investigation by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission for defrauding more than $2.68 million from 20 investors in an investment scheme.
He slipped out of Melbourne and fled to Manila in 2011 where he allegedly established a lucrative business by videotaping lewd actions of minors.
Francisco said Scully would cater to child predators from across the globe, who paid as much as $10,000 each for live-stream videos of children being tortured and sexually abused.