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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 12:03 GMT
Far East sex tourists exposed
Irishmen are travelling to the Far East to have sex with children, a BBC Northern Ireland documentary has revealed.

Philippines map image
The Spotlight programme examines the Irish connection to the sex tourism trade in the Philippines. Here Stephen Walker reports on his investigation into this new brand of "tourism".

I am introduced to Glo. Through an interpreter she is told who I am.

She seems nervous and appears hesitant when we talk about recording an interview. Her reluctance is understandable.

In the teenager's experience, all foreign men want from her is sex. Soon she relaxes and begins to tell me her life story.

Her account is shocking.

When she was 13, she was sexually abused by a relative.

She then left home to escape the horror of being repeatedly raped, and found work in a sex club.

She ended up working every night as a prostitute, expected to have sex with tourists from all over the world including Britain and Ireland for 6 a time.

Controlled by a "mamasang," slang for a female pimp, her pay would be reduced if she refused to have sex.

Poverty trap

Caught in the poverty trap, she had become a sex slave, cut off from her friends and family.

Her story is disturbing, but in a country with 100,000 child prostitutes, it is all too common.

Glo worked in the bars of Angeles City.

It is a grim place, packed with karaoke bars and pick-up joints, where foreign visitors come looking for one thing.

Richard Agnew
Richard Agnew denies any involvement in the sex industry
Nicknamed "Sin City," it is the centre of the Philippines sex industry and a magnet for travellers known as "whorists", who want to have sex with young girls.

It is a world that Glo has now left behind.

With the help of Dun Laoghaire-born priest Father Shay Cullen, she has managed to escape from the clutches of the pimp who controlled her.

Fr Cullen has been exposing paedophiles in the Philippines for the past 30 years.

He helped Glo leave the sex club and now provides a refuge for her, along with 30 other former child prostitutes.

What has surprised Fr Cullen in recent months is the ages of the girls he is now rescuing.

"Once we would have found 15 and 16-year-olds. Now we are discovering 13-year-olds, and more and more bar owners, particularly Britons and Irish, who are getting involved," he said.

Although prostitution is illegal in Angeles, it seems to be tolerated
Last month, Spotlight producer Brendan McCourt and I travelled to the heart of the Philippines sex industry to investigate the Irish connection.

A quick walk around the streets of Angeles highlights the growing involvement of British and Irish investors.

Many bars have Irish names, and are patronised daily by visiting westerners.

Although prostitution is illegal in Angeles, it seems to be tolerated.

Night and day, western men can be seen with young girls - some look as young as 11 or 12.

Deals are done openly in the streets, and children are hired out for a few pounds.

The clubs in Angeles are mainly clustered together in one long street.

It is a regular destination for Fr Cullen, who often goes undercover to expose pimps and sex tourists.

Equipped with a hidden camera, in one bar he captured one sex tourist boasting that it is the "best place in the world to pick up 15-year-olds".

Outside another club, he befriended an Irishman and secretly recorded his views.

The sex tourist told him that Angeles has lots to offer and wondered why his new found friends were going home alone.

Deportation case

Angeles' best known Irish resident is now at the centre of a deportation case.

Richard Agnew, from Larne, is a former RUC Constable who has spent the last ten years in the Philippines.

Three months ago, he was arrested and charged with employing child prostitutes in a series of bars.

The former policeman denies the charges.

He insists that he is simply working as a consultant in some of the bars, and rejects any suggestion that he is involved in prostitution.

Despite his denials, Mr Agnew's record in the Philippines is worthy of investigation.

Tuesday's edition of Spotlight examines his claims that he is not involved in the sex industry.

We produce documentary evidence that links him to a series of bars, and we hear from child prostitutes who say he is involved in the running of clubs.

We met Angie, who began working as a prostitute when she was 13.

She says Mr Agnew is involved in sex clubs and reveals on the programme that he is known in Angeles as the "Daddy" - a term used to describe a sex club's owner.

Angie's story, like that of Glo's, is repeated right across the Philippines.

It is a story of young girls desperate to escape from poverty who are forced to sell their bodies.

They are now safe and well, living in a care centre run by Fr Cullen.

The girls believe they have had a lucky escape, and are planning careers in teaching and nursing.

A world away from the streets of Angeles, where the sex tourist is king.

Some of the names have been changed to protect identities.


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