NBI probes online sale of studentsâ sensual pics
This file photo shows a child using the camera of a cellular phone
Pixabay/File

NBI probes online sale of students’ sensual pics

Evelyn Macairan, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 4, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice’s Office of Cybercrime (OOC) will intensify efforts to crack down on all forms of online human trafficking, the DOJ said yesterday, amid reports that students are offering a “Christmas sale” of their sensual photos and videos so that they can have money to buy gadgets for distance learning classes.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the NBI, particularly its Cybercrime Division, and the OOC would double their efforts to locate and apprehend individuals and syndicates illegally engaged in human trafficking activities in the country.

Guevarra said these traffickers are taking advantage of the lockdown imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people have lost jobs and are forced to stay home to prevent virus transmission, to look for potential victims.

“The DOJ, through its Office of Cybercrime, and the NBI’s Cybercrime Division, will intensify its efforts to crack down on cybercrimes and all forms of human trafficking through the internet, which are expected to rise during these times of limited physical movement and interaction,” he said.

From March 1 to May 24 last year, the DOJ-OOC reported an increase of 264.63 percent – more than 202,605 incidents – of online sexual exploitation of children or OSEC in the country, compared to the same period in 2019.

For the period, 76,651 reports were received in 2019, while 279,166 were received last year.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate’s basic education committee, reportedly received information of students holding a Christmas sale of sensual photos and videos.

Gatchalian yesterday prodded DOJ-OOC and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate reports of the sale.

The senator said the DOJ-OOC and the PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Group must immediately look into reports of the Philippine Online Student Tambayan (POST), a news portal on the student sector, that some students use #AlterPH, #AlterPinay, and #AlterPhilippines on Twitter to sell their photos and videos.

These students use what they earn to buy gadgets for their siblings and pay for internet bills. A Christmas bundle, which contains an array of photos and videos that sometimes reveal the face of sellers, is sold for as low as P150, according to Gatchalian.

“It is alarming that the pandemic is causing other problems that our students are facing abuse and danger of being victims of abuse and violence. Unscrupulous people can take advantage of our students, and the government must stop this,” he said in a statement.

‘Child Protection Committees’

The senator also urged the Department of Education to boost its child protection program, noting that “Child Protection Committees (CPCs)” in schools are mandated to identify learners who may be experiencing abuse and exploitation.

CPCs are also expected to report cases to government agencies and non-government organizations.

Gatchalian also sought stronger government crackdown on trafficking by proposing Senate Bill 1794 that seeks to allow regional courts, in cases involving child trafficking, to authorize law enforcers to conduct surveillance and record communications and information involving persons charged with or suspected of trafficking.

The measure also mandates internet service providers to install available technology, program or software to block and filter any access to any form of child pornography.

In response to the proposed legislation, Guevarra said, “We welcome the possible enactment of a new law that would strengthen the legal framework for the government’s campaign against human trafficking in cyberspace, particularly online sexual exploitation of children and minors.”

Gatchalian also filed Senate Bill 735 or the Human Trafficking Preventive Education Program Act, which seeks to orient Filipino children and youth about their rights, government protection measures and the dangers posed by different forms of trafficking.

The senator is eyeing a law that would provide every learner in the country with a laptop and access to the internet.

He said a possible provision under the bill, which he has yet to file, will eliminate the need for learners to resort to desperate measures that may meet their current needs and will only cause psychosocial concerns and personal issues in the long run.

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