Online sexual exploitation of children on the rise in PH
In the Philippines, a senator and an actress have joined forces to fight the online sexual exploitation of children. A new study released by International Justice Mission shows the Philippines is a global hot spot for this worsening problem.
“Hindi ko po ma-comprehend na nagagawa po ng mga tao ‘yun. Because I’m aware that it’s happening on the dark web. Pero hindi po ako aware na nangyayari rin po siya sa mga social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It was my first time, first-hand, seeing people actually selling these photos, videos, graphic images about children. And I’m upset on my part na hindi ko alam na nangyayari siya. I could have done something earlier to prevent those from happening by using my platform,” said actress Liza Soberano.
Soberano joined Senator Risa Hontiveros, lawyer Rey Bicol of International Justice Mission Philippines, and Nitz Dalde of Child Rights Network Philippines in a webinar hosted on the senator’s Facebook page on May 22.
Hontiveros is the chair of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality. On May 18, Hontiveros had posted on Twitter screenshots of Facebook pages engaging in the online sexual exploitation of children. Soberano retweeted Hontiveros and used her social media platform to denounce these online predators. Then, on May 21, the senator posted on Twitter the letter she had sent to alert the National Bureau of Investigation about the spike in the online sexual exploitation of children.
“Last week, nanawagan ako sa National Bureau of Investigation to immediately take action on Facebook pages and groups that sexually exploit children. Bilang isang magulang, isang ina, nakagagambala ang mga reports na ito,” Hontiveros said during the webinar.
Hontiveros had called upon her online followers to send screenshots of social media accounts that sexually exploit children so that she could collate these. She said she has received hundreds of screenshots.
Meanwhile, Bicol said that in this digital age, the online sexual exploitation of children has unfortunately become more prevalent.
“When you say online sexual exploitation of children or OSEC, ito ‘yung live streaming of the sexual abuse of children for a customer who is normally in a foreign country in exchange for money, which is facilitated by Filipinos in the Philippines. And normally sila nga yung mga kamag-anak and parents ng mga batang ito. And I would say in my years of work with the International Justice Mission, ito ‘yung worst form of child abuse that I’ve ever encountered in the field because this involves very young victims. Most of our cases involve children below 12 years old. And as I said, ang nangaabuso ay ang mga kamag-anak and sadly ang mga magulang ng mga batang ito,” Bicol said.
Hontiveros called on online users to become advocates like Soberano. She asked them to report social media accounts that they see engaging in online sexual exploitation. While decrying the misuse of social media, the senator said that it can be a powerful platform for good.
As our country moves into the so-called new normal, Hontiveros said that we should shape this transition. We can make it a better normal. One that will address the root causes of OSEC, so that children will be safe.