Government declares war vs online child sex abuse

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Government declares war vs online child sex abuse
Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla said the Philippines remains on top among countries with cases involving internet-based child sexual exploitation.
Philstar / File

MANILA, Philippines — The government yesterday declared a “war” against online sexual exploitation of children, which officials believe was exacerbated by the lockdowns imposed during the height of the pandemic.

Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla said the Philippines remains on top among countries with cases involving internet-based child sexual exploitation.

“We are declaring a war on this,” Remulla said during an inter-agency press conference at Malacañang.

“We are the favorite place of these perverts,” he added.

Remulla said the government and its partners would adapt a “comprehensive approach” to stop sexual exploitation of children on the internet.

“I think the new thing about this is the comprehensive approach. AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) is here. The DICT (Department of Information and Communications) is here. We are asking the telcos to put filters into their systems. We are not leaving any stone unturned,” he said.

Nikki Prieto-Teodoro, special envoy to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), said that incidents of online sexual child exploitation (OSEC) in the country rose by 280 percent in 2022.

Apart from the lockdown, Teodoro said the country’s visa-free policy as well as technology also made it easier for perpetrators to exploit Filipino children.

“It’s easy to come to the country. You don’t need a visa. Lockdown played a big part for parents to actually, may I say, prostitute their children online or market their children online for profit,” she said.

“It’s technology that’s made it easier for these perpetrators to market their children. It has become more lucrative,” Teodoro added.

Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo expressed belief that poverty is behind the proliferation of child pornography.

“It has been there and it’s a big problem, but it was never given much attention. Right now, this administration is keen and is very serious in stopping this,” Tulfo said.

US attaché Ricardo Navalta said the US is behind the Philippines in combatting child exploitation.

“We are here to develop best practices, help develop programs to not only stop foreigners from the US or from other countries from coming into the country to have access to Filipino children, but also educate the population as well,” Navalta said.

He said the US has a memorandum of cooperation with the Philippine National Police (PNP) since 2018 to combat transnational crime and sexual misconduct, as well as child exploitation.

“We are in the process of adding the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as well as many other agencies – Customs, Immigration and the DSWD – into this program. We hope we can work together to reduce the number of cases that come from the US and foreign countries,” he said.

Remulla said the presence at the meeting of Cabinet secretaries and ranking officials of law enforcement agencies showed the government’s commitment to put a stop to online sexual exploitation of children.

He said the officials and agencies would unite to apprehend and place perpetrators behind bars.

Remulla said that law enforcement units – PNP, NBI, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Bureau of Corrections – are support the campaign against online sexual exploitation of children.

Aside from Remulla, the other Cabinet secretaries present were Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)’s Benhur Abalos, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)’s Erwin Tulfo and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT)’s Ivan John Uy.

The DOJ chief said the data placing the Philippines in the number 1 spot for OSEC was gathered from different international agencies and that international law enforcement agencies are aware that the country is the favorite place of perverts.

“It is not a source of pride but a source of shame. That is why we want to end this… and that the only way to deter people from doing this is the certainty of punishment. That is why we are here. It is a statement we are making,” Remulla said.

“For those who would insist on doing their old ways of exploiting our children in this heinous manner, we are here to punish you. We will not allow this to go on,” he added.

The ALMC is looking into the payment systems. They are also expecting the telecommunications companies to filter the OSEC transactions that are mostly happening online.


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