Senate urged to probe surge in cases of online abuse, exploitation of Filipino children
Students in uniform answer their learning modules during an online class under DepEd's blended learning system this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

Senate urged to probe surge in cases of online abuse, exploitation of Filipino children

(Philstar.com) - February 10, 2021 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Francis Pangilinan is urging the Senate committee on women to launch an inquiry into the rising incidence of child abuse and exploitation online.

This comes as several non-government organizations this week called for safer and better internet for children, expressing alarm at the sharp increase in cases of exploitation and abuse of young people amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In Senate Resolution No. 642, Pangilinan cites a report released last May by the Washington-based International Justice Mission (IJM) which found that there was a surge in the number of IP addresses used in child sexual exploitation from 23,333 in 2014 to 81,723 in 2017. The study was headed by IJM in partnership with the US State Department, and the Philippine Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.

"The report also found that online-sexual exploitation of children was usually a 'family-based crime' where the abuse was usually perpetrated by biological parents or other relatives of the victims," Pangilinan said.

He added that the National Bureau of Investigation has flagged the proliferation of commercial adoption online. "On 08 February 2021, the NBI was reported to be working with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to track down the persons and groups behind 48 Facebook accounts that claim to facilitate online illegal adoption."

Pangilinan further scored the role of Facebook in these alarming developments, citing a investigative group Tech Transparency Project's (TPP) study which "found that Facebook has not been fully enforcing its own standards on banning child exploitation content on its platform over the past six (6) years."

"Only 9% of 366 cases between January 2013 and December 2019 were investigated by the US Department of Justice because Facebook alerted authorities, while the rest of the investigations were initiated without the prompts from the tech giant," he said.

Currently, Pangilinan said, there is no existing law that covers "the full range of online abuse and exploitation of children" as defined by the Child Rights Network:

  • recruitment and online technology
  • stages of commission
  • participation in the offense
  • corresponding penalties

Given all this, he urged the Senate to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation to "address the gaps in the implementation of, and compliance with, existing laws, and come up with a more comprehensive and all-encompassing law or policy to ensure that Filipino children are protected at all times against such crimes."

— Bella Perez-Rubio with a report from Franco Luna

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