CRN seeks protection of children against sexual predators during ECQ

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Child Rights Network (CRN), the largest alliance of organizations that uphold children’s rights in the Philippines, is calling on the national government and local government units (LGUs) to protect children from online sexual exploitation amidst the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Despite the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the CRN noted that there is still a growing number of reports of online sexual exploitation of children. Based on reports obtained by the CRN, there are Twitter users from the "alter community" sharing and selling child sexual abuse materials online.

The CRN said that sexual predators are taking advantage of the ECQ to exploit more children. The economic situation is not helping either since many parents are now finding it hard to make ends meet. The CRN fears that parents might be forced to peddle their children to sexual predators online just to provide food on the table.

The CRN has lauded the efforts of the country's law enforcement agencies in curbing the online exploitation of children, particularly the Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP) Women and Children’s Protection Center, and the Philippine Internet Crimes against Children Center. These agencies continuously monitor and act upon reported cases of exploitation of children.

However, the CRN lamented that the country's laws have "several gaps" that make it difficult to prosecute sexual predators. There are no clearly-defined rules delineating the obligations of social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter as well as internet cafes or kiosks in relation to shutting down online sexual exploitation.

At the same time, the government needs to strengthen the capacity of its authorities to implement online sexual exploitation-related laws and ensure that crimes are investigated and perpetrators are punished accordingly.

The CRN also suggested that social protection laws, including the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program, should also focus on addressing online sexual exploitation of children-related issues.

Vulnerable households need stronger protection measures by the government during this time, the network said. Reporting and referral lines should be set up and widely disseminated so that victims and witnesses can easily report cases of abuse and exploitation.