The Child Rights Network (CRN) is worried millions of Filipino children might give in to the trap that is the cybersex trade if the issue is left unaddressed by authorities.
To coincide with July 30 as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the CRN is urging a concerted effort in fighting against online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC).
Confronted with poverty, many parents and their children resort to cybersex trade to survive poverty as exacerbated by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) health crisis.
The CRN said that out of the 43 million Filipino children aged 18 and below, roughly 13.4 million children belong to families living in poverty, based on official government estimates. This portion of the population is considered the most vulnerable to OSAEC.
“A confluence of factors contribute to making the issue of OSAEC even more insidious: the economic hardships exacerbated by the hard lockdowns due to the pandemic, the wide availability of access to the Internet, and the need to constantly improve laws and regulations that should supposedly curb online child trafficking — all these led us to this alarming situation,” said CRN Convenor Romeo Dongeto.
The group has noted with alarm that perpetrators are using social media websites such as Twitter to traffic children. Children themselves are being forced to sell their nude photos over chat websites and applications just to finance their education.
“With several forces at play in intensifying the crisis of OSAEC, bolstered by other enabling factors including Filipinos’ good English language skills, convenient money transfers, and outdated laws and policies, it is now really easier for predators to prey on children. To respond to this crisis, concerted effort is warranted,” Dongeto said.
There are already several laws meant to protect children from cyber predators including R.A. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act, Presidential Decree No. 603 or the Child and Youth Welfare Code, R.A. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, R.A. 9995 or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009, R.A. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, R.A. 10364 or the Expanded Anti Trafficking in Persons Act, and R.A. 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act.
However, the CRN said these landmark laws “remain wanting” in terms of application.
“We should admit that the realm of policing the Internet in the Philippines is a relatively new field, and with the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) still in its infancy, capacity building is necessary,” Dongeto said.