THE National Government has declared a “war” against cyber child pornography and sexual exploitation and child trafficking amid the continuous increase of cases especially during the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
In a press conference in Malacañang on Tuesday, August 23, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said concerned government agencies, including the National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, Department of Information and Communication Technology, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of the Interior and Local Government, among others, have been coordinating closely with the United States Homeland Security and the United Nations in a bid to put the perpetrators of these abuses to children behind bars.
"We are declaring a war on this... We will not hesitate to prosecute anybody who [contributes] directly or indirectly in this nature," Remulla said.
Remulla said the Philippines has become the “favorite place” of child abusers from across the world over the past years. He said the country is on top in terms of online child sexual exploitation incidents.
From 2017 to July 2022, 198 online child sexual exploitation cases were filed, in which 67 individuals were convicted. Sixty-seven cases were also filed for child pornography violation.
The DOJ said there was an increase of 264.63 percent in the number of online child sexual exploitation reported in 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
DSWD Secretary Erwin Tulfo attributed the increase in online child sexual exploitation cases to the lockdowns brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, stressing it made the children stay at home and parents have lost their livelihood.
He said some parents were also in connivance with pedophiles, as they themselves were the ones who take nude video or photos of their children and sell them to the abusers.
Tulfo said poverty is also one reason why parents were lured to do such things to their children.
He warned that parents can be prosecuted for engaging in such activity, while their children will be taken into custody by the government.
DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos cited the Republic Act 9775, or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, and the Republic Act 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, as the primary suits against online child sexual exploitation.
Presidential envoy to Unicef Nikki Prieto-Teodoro said the country’s accessibility is also one of the reasons why these abusers opt to “patronize” the Philippines in such illegal acts.
"It’s easy to come to the country. Lockdown played a big part of parents prostituting, marketing their children online for profit: the fact that it is easy to put up a site. It is technology that made it easier for these perpetrators to market their children, our children, and it has gotten easier and it has gotten more lucrative," she said.
"It is so lucrative. It is a billion-dollar industry. Bilyon-bilyon ang makukuha nila. But once you get caught and charged, you get charged internationally," she added.
Remulla said the majority of the pedophiles were from the European region.
He said the government is putting up a comprehensive approach in finishing this problem which badly affects the mental health of the children.
“The comprehensive approach, AMLA (Anti-Money Laundering Council) is there, the DICT is here. We’re asking the telcos to put filters on their system. We’re not leaving any stone unturned. This comprehensive approach is the one that will get things done,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)