In 2020, there were 1.3 million reports of child sexual abuse materials (CSAMs) coming from the Philippines. The reports of CSAMs coming from the Southeast Asian country dramatically jumped to 3.1 million last year.

The 138 percent increase in 2021 is terrifying. This could mean that more people, presumably parents or close kin, have engaged children in online cyber pornography trafficking and online sexual abuse and exploitation of children or Osaec in the past two years.

The Philippine Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), which was created by virtue of Republic Act 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012), has said that the United States National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported an increase in Osaec activities in the country from 2019 to 2021.

However, Osaec is commonplace not only in the Philippines as the NCMEC also reported a steady rise in cases of reported Osaec around the world, possibly aggravated by lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns in the past two years in the Philippines have resulted in closures of several businesses, and several Filipinos lost their jobs. Out-of-work individuals who struggled to find jobs right away possibly threw themselves into illicit activities, one of which could be producing CSAMs. Heartless individuals could have done it to survive and feed their family; however, engaging in unlawful income-generating ventures on the internet just to survive cannot justify any evil act.

To beat Osaec and stop the country from producing CSAMs is a difficult task, and the CICC cannot do it alone. CICC technical consultant Linus Antonio has said online child pornography must be a concern of the whole country, not only of the CICC, Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

The CICC and other government agencies involved in enforcing laws that protect children have a new weapon in fighting internet abuse of children: the proposed Anti-Online Sexual Abuse Exploitation of Children Act, which Congress recently ratified.

The proposed law—seen to strengthen protection for children by requiring internet intermediaries and other internet or payment service providers to take down or remove websites that show illegal content of abuse of minors—needs only the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte before it can be enforced. It must become a law to protect the children who are helpless when adults prey on them or use them for their shady moneymaking schemes online.