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‘Declare war vs online sexual exploitation of children’

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
âDeclare war vs online sexual exploitation of childrenâ
The Child Rights Network (CRN) on Tuesday underscored the need for a multi-sectoral response to strengthen reporting and surveillance mechanisms against OSEC, especially during the coronavirus disease pandemic.
Pixabay / File

MANILA, Philippines — Children’s rights organizations are calling for an all-out war against online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) in the Philippines.

The Child Rights Network (CRN) on Tuesday underscored the need for a multi-sectoral response to strengthen reporting and surveillance mechanisms against OSEC, especially during the coronavirus disease pandemic.

It issued the statement after the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that the number of OSEC cases in the country increased by 264 percent since quarantine measures were put in place last March.

“The sad reality that the suspect is a close relative and acquaintance of the victims highlights the fact that at least 25 percent of OSEC cases in the country are perpetrated by family members and close contacts of victims,” CRN convener Romeo Dongeto said.

“We have to declare an all-out war against OSEC in order to resolutely shut down these hideous acts committed against children,” he added.

The DOJ said it has monitored 279,166 reports of OSEC incidents between March 1 to May 24 this year, compared to the 76,561 cases in the same period last year.

The CRN highlighted the importance of private sector support, especially internet service providers and money transfer facilities that are being used in the exploitation of children.

Dongeto urged those in these sectors to aggressively report cases and develop necessary technology and mechanisms to shut down OSEC.

“We have to maximize the internet to intensify our campaign against OSEC and be cognizant of the implications of the pandemic and the ‘new normal’ in the review of laws related to OSEC,” he added.

He cited the case of a 28-year-old suspect of online sex trafficking who was apprehended in Butuan City last Saturday.

“The suspect was arrested after she was found to be offering a paying foreign sexual predator a livestream of the sexual abuse and exploitation of minors together with an adult,” Dongeto said.

The suspect, he said, is a close relative and neighbor of the seven victims and six other children reported to have also been abused.

Earlier this month, the International Justice Mission released a report confirming that the Philippines has become the global hotspot of online sexual abuse. 

It noted that OSEC victims are generally very young children who are often groomed and abused for years.

The CRN earlier said that the lockdown situation is worsening the already grim situation of child safety on the internet.

“With the widening availability of internet connection in the Philippines, and with the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) prompting children to spend more time online, sexual predators find it easier to prey on children,” it said in a statement last month.

“It is apparent that online sexual predators are taking advantage of the situation to exploit more children to satisfy their disturbing sexual obsessions,” it added.

The group also expressed fear that the worsening economic situation may push adults to resort to peddling children to sexual predators online “due to the lucrative nature of these activities.”

“The economic strain being suffered by families during the slowdown of economic activities during the ECQ makes these families vulnerable to online sexual predators,” it added. Helen Flores

ONLINE SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN
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