EDITORIAL - Wanted: Law vs OSEC
(The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2020 - 12:00am

In 2018, at least 600,000 photos of Filipino children naked or in sexualized poses were shared and sold on the internet. In that mountain of cases, only 27 offenders were prosecuted and convicted.

Still, considering the sorry state of the country’s justice system, 27 convictions in less than two years is a pretty good record. It helps that there are several laws that can be used to go after pedophiles. Among these are the Cybercrime Prevention Act, Anti-Child Abuse Law and Anti-Child Pornography Act.

Child welfare advocates, however, say a law is needed to specifically address offenses related to the online sexual exploitation of children. A new law to fight OSEC will also require more stringent measures to prevent the laundering of proceeds from the crime through the banking system. OSEC, the advocates stress, is different from child pornography.

Child welfare groups want an “all-encompassing” new law that can compel internet service providers to block and filter sites that purvey OSEC. The groups also want obligations imposed on private entities such as banks and credit card companies, money remittance centers as well as hotels and inns to shut down OSEC activities.

The country has become one of the biggest sources of OSEC materials, with the youngest documented victim just two months old. The United Nations Children’s Fund has lamented that in many cases, parents themselves are the ones exploiting their children. Unicef has noted that in some instances, entire communities are involved in the abuse.

Poverty, easy access to the internet and ease in speaking English make Filipino children vulnerable to exploitation, according to child welfare groups.

The complexity of the problem calls for a holistic approach that involves both national and local government agencies. Coordination is needed among families, school administrators, barangay personnel and community leaders to be on the lookout for indications of OSEC, and to respond appropriately when a case is confirmed. Children who suffer physical and sexual abuse, especially when their own parents are among their tormentors, are often scarred for life.

Cyberspace has opened new forms of exploitation, and child welfare advocates say new legislation is needed to fight the problem. Congress should respond to the call.

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