Americans Targeted for Allegedly Running Underage Prostitution in Philippines

Subic Bay has become synonymous with foreigners looking for sex.

ByABC News
February 24, 2013, 6:18 PM

SUBIC BAY, The Philippines Feb. 25, 2013 -- Arthur Benjamin is sitting at the edge of a small stage, wearing a lavender Hawaiian shirt and nursing a bottle of San Miguel Light beer. The 6-foot-6 mustachioed Texan lazily watches the half dozen or so girls dancing rather unenergetically around the stage's pole.

"I forgot your gift again, it's in the car," Benjamin says to one of the girls on stage, shouting above the pop music blaring from the speaker system.

The small, dingy bar, which Benjamin says he owns, is called Crow Bar. It's in a rundown part of the picturesque Subic Bay in the western Philippines, about a three hour drive from the capital, Manila. Home for 50 years to a United States naval base, Subic Bay has become synonymous with foreigners looking for sex in the long string of bars that line the main road along the coast.

Watch an encore presentation of this "Nightline" investigation on Friday, Nov. 29, at 12:23 a.m. ET on ABC.

The bars in this area are often packed with older foreign men ogling the young Filipina women available for the night for a "bar fine" of around 1,500 Filipino pesos, or just over $35. Many of the bars are owned and operated by Americans, often former military servicemen who either served on the base or whose ships docked here until the base was shuttered under political pressure in 1992.

Most of the prostitutes working in the bars are indeed 18 or older. But in the Philippines, just a small scratch to the surface can reveal a layer of young, underage girls who have mostly come from impoverished rural provinces to sell their bodies to help support their families.

Benjamin, 49, is, according to his own statements, one of the countless foreigners who has moved beyond just having sex with underage girls to owning and operating a bar where girls in scantily-clad outfits flaunt their bodies for patrons.

"My wife recently found out that I have this place," he tells an ABC News "Nightline" team, unaware they are journalists and recording the conversation on tiny hidden cameras disguised as shirt buttons.

Benjamin said that a "disgruntled waitress" had written his wife on Facebook, detailing his activities in Subic Bay.

"She sent her this thing saying that I have underage girls who stayed with me, that I [have anal sex with them], I own a bar, I've got other girls that I'm putting through high school, all this other crap," he said.

"All of which is true," he laughed. "However, I have to deny."

He sends a text message summoning his current girlfriend, a petite dark-skinned girl called Jade, who he said is just 16 years old. Benjamin says he bought the bar for her about a year ago and while most still call it Crow Bar, he officially re-named it with her last name.

"She needed a place to stay, I needed a place to do her. I bought a bar for her," he says, explaining that she lives in a house out back by the beach.

"You're not going to find anything like this in the States, not as a guy my age," he said as he looked down at Jade. "Ain't going to happen."

Benjamin is the latest target of Father Shay Cullen, a Catholic priest with a thick Irish brogue and fluency in the local language, Tagalog. Through his non-profit center called Preda, he's been crusading against underage sex trafficking in the Philippines for 40 years.