Number of online sexual exploitation cases 'alarming'

A NON-GOVERNMENT organization (NGO) advocating against human trafficking has expressed alarm after a total of 164 individuals reported to them for having been exposed to online sexual exploitation in Davao City.

Bennie Mondragon, Child Alert Mindanao (CAM) executive director, during Friday's (July 26, 2019) Kapehan sa PIA at NCCC Buhangin, said they received reports from people who were exposed to online sexual exploitation of children (Osec) from March to May 2019.

This, he added, is based on the data of Talikala, an NGO supporting victims of trafficking and one of their alliances.

"Ang uban tingali ani wala gyud [naabot sa] police, pero mao ni account sa mga bata. Makita nato na medyo problema gyud ni labi na ug sikreto mahitabo. Pwede sa sulod sa balay, unya a lot of families, the parents don't see anything wrong kay ingon pa nila wala may actual or physical nga contact [These reports might have not reached the police. This is a problem since these mostly happen in their own dwellings because the parents don't see anything wrong with it as they say there is no physical contact]," Mondragon said.

He said they are getting more and more reports because of their continuous information campaign against trafficking.

Unicef reported that eight out of every 10 children are at risk of being a victim of Osec.

CAM has been conducting a community-based intervention by educating the people down to the grassroots level on the effects of technology among children and their susceptibility to this kind of cybercrime.

"[We are] teaching the parents how to detect and how to prevent [at] malayo ang ilang mga bata kay ang vulnerability sa mga bata karon is very high labi na karon na naghawid na og smartphone. Ang internet, nagkanindot ang signal, nagkapaspas ang ing-ani (Children have become vulnerable because they have smart phones and internet access)," he added.

He also urged the parents to monitor the online activities of their children because these cannot be curbed by NGOs of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking alone.

Thus, he encouraged them to be responsible on letting their children use the internet especially now that social media has become a tool to commit crimes, such as child abuse and human trafficking.

For her part, lawyer Barbara Mae Flores of Department of Justice Regional Prosecutor's Office said four cases were already filed in Davao region. Of which, two resulted in convictions, while the two others are still pending.

On July 18, a woman was arrested during an entrapment operation conducted by the Philippine National Police's Women and Children Protection Center-Mindanao Field Unit and the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit-Davao in Carmen, Davao del Norte after she sent photos of her four-year-old son being sexually abused through an online messaging platform in exchange for money.

She said the information was referred to them by the Australian Federal Police after a child offender was nabbed for engaging in Osec and learned that the victims were from Carmen. After conducting case build-up, the entrapment operation was launched against the mother that led to the rescue of two male children.

Osec is a crime that violates the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act or Republic Act (RA) 9208 (as amended by RA 10364), which comes with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of P2 million to P5 million. The typical Osec offenses also violate RA 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012), RA 9775 (Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009) and RA 7610 (Child Abuse Law). Each of these violations has penalties equivalent to 12 to 40 years imprisonment.

Flores said it is a challenge on their part because these incidents are done usually inside the victim's comfort zone, but she noted that the filing of cases of child sex offenders has slowly improved because of their coordination with international police who likewise give them information from abroad.

"Foreign law enforcers communicate with law enforcers here in the Philippines to report. Kunwari may nahuli sila doon so makikita nila kung sino ang facilitators at they communicate with us so we have leads on how to arrest and who to arrest," Flores said.


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