DICT activates Cyber Guardians

IMG_1643 Allan S. Cabanlong, Assistant Secretary for CyberSecurity and Enabling Technologies

Despite the many laws protecting children in the Philippines, the country has been identified as one of the top global source of child pornography. The 2017 State of the World’s Children report, published annually by UNICEF, states that around 80% of Filipino kids are at risk of online sexual abuse or bullying.

Plagued with this painful reality, the DICT CyberSecurity Bureau, in partnership with Pacific Online Systems, addressed the challenge by conducting the CyberSafePH EcoSystem Activation Workshop last March 7 and 8. CyberSafePH is the flagship program of the DICT for its Cybersecurity Education and Campaign Project under the fourth key imperative of the National CyberSecurity Plan 2022 – the Protection of Individuals. A multi-stakeholder initiative composed of various government agencies (PNP, NBI, DOJ, DSWD, DepEd); private associations of schools, colleges & universities; psychologists/psycho-social therapists/guidance counselors; teachers, parents, broadcast networks, social organizations, private institutions, celebrities and influencers, the workshop was a systematic approach in getting the buy-in of the whole nation on a personal, organizational and eventually on a national level for child online protection.

“The goal when I started was to bring down the statistics. In 2016, there were 30k+ cases of online sexual exploitation of children and now we have 600k reported cases. That’s an increase of more than 2000%. I feel useless,” said Christian Ibasco Department of Justice Special Investigator.

Participants of the CyberSafePH EcoSystem Activation Workshop Participants of the CyberSafePH EcoSystem Activation Workshop

The grim reality is not limited to online sexual exploitation of children. Cyber bullying cases has more than tripled resulting in skyrocketing cases of youth suicide in the country. Once dubbed as the happiest nation on Earth, the Philippines is now identified by the World Health Organization as the most depressed nation in Southeast Asia.

The workshop activated a nationwide network on a collaborative platform to co-create and implement practical solutions in addressing cybercrimes particularly those affecting children and the youth, OSEC (online sexual exploitation of children) and cyberbullying. Stakeholders were engaged in an open dialogue to explore and define each one’s critical role and in maximizing one’s potential contribution to co-create a CyberSafePH.

“We recognize that it takes a whole nation to protect our future – the children. The DICT is just an enabler but we need everyone in creating a cyber environment where children are free to learn and be the best they can be, safe from abuse, exploitation or harm. After all, one only needs to look at a nation’s youth to see its future,” said Allan S. Cabanlong, Assistant Secretary for CyberSecurity and Enabling Technologies