'Sexploitation' in Baguio City feared

THERE is a possibility that child sexploitation cases are happening in the country's Summer Capital but are not reported to law enforcement and social welfare agencies.

This was how Carmen Moyaen, executive director of the Child and Family Service Incorporated, views the abuses to children through the use of the internet and various social media platforms during the Kapihan sa Baguio, which focused on the observance of the National Children's Month.

"I think we have a challenge in terms of documentation but based on our case management with our clients, there are daily cases of sexploitation in Baguio because of the access to the internet and the social media platforms, and it happens that there is this research, a national survey that was funded by Unicef and implemented by De La Salle University and I was part of that. We really have cases of sexploitation in Benguet as a whole because there were communities that were interviewed and we cannot imagine that even in the mountainous areas, the children have access and they are prone to abuse," Moyaen said.

In a recent seminar in Manila sponsored by Fundacion Educacion Cooperacion or Educo, a global development non-government organization that advocates for the rights of children to equitable and quality education, it presented a World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations International Children's Educational Fund (Unicef) qualitative and quantitative study showing child sexploitation cases occurring in Benguet and Mountain Province.

"At present, we have this trainings cyber safety manuals which is being shared on how to help our children protect themselves especially on the social media side. We have protective strategies on that. Presently, what we are doing now is self-awareness campaign but I think as councils, we have to work together to prepare the day for that," Moyaen added.

In a "Digital in 2018" report on internet and social media usage around the globe, US-based social media think-tank Hootsuite found out that for Filipinos, the average daily time spent using the internet via any device is nine hours and 29 minutes; and that for their weekly online activities, 47 percent use it to socialize.

During the Kapihan, the Office of the City Social Welfare and Development Office (Ocswado) and the Children and Women's Protection Desk of the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) admitted that they have yet to record a case of child sexploitation in Baguio City through the use of the internet and social media platform.

Claire Henderson, founder and director of the Helping Hands-Healing Hearts ministries, said members of the City Council for the Protection of Children (CCPC) are set to launch an education campaign to children on how to protect themselves from sexploitation or abuse.

"You will be glad to hear that as the CCPC, we already discussed this in our gathering for the last month, and we began to make advance plans even though it's not something that we are dealing with immediately as a city. We are going to partner with each other to do a Children's Summit this incoming year 2020 and one of the topics is cybersex, how to keep yourself online and we are not waiting until it happens. We're working in advance and as a committee, we've already thought about it, planned for it and we're ready for it," Henderson said.

In 2016, Unicef dubbed the Philippines as the global epicenter of the live stream sexual abuse trade, indicating online sexual exploitation of children (Osec) plaguing all ages of Filipinos.

Forms of Osec that are prevalent in the country include live streaming videos of children performing sexual acts, coercion of pimps in internet cafes or parents at home, and trafficking and trapping children in "cyber dens."


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