Senator Christopher Lawrernce “Bong” Go has called on authorities to look into the reported online sale of lewd photos and videos of some Filipino students as he urged law enforcement agencies to strengthen the government’s anti-cybercrime campaign.
“I am calling on concerned agencies to provide necessary interventions to put a stop to this. Alarming ito lalo na’t ang kalaswaan na ito ay dulot rin ng kahirapan (This is alarming, especially so that such an obscenity is being committed due to poverty),” Go said, emphasizing that “hindi rason ang kahirapan para ibenta ang kaluluwa (poverty is not a reason to sell one’s soul).”
He issued the statement after reports indicating that some students have been resorting to selling their obscene photos and videos online to support their needs amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Pwedeng makasuhan kung sino ‘yung kakuntsaba at pumapayag sa mga ganitong pagbebenta ng malalaswang mga larawan (Charges can be filed against the cohorts and those who allowed the sale of such obscene photos),” Go said during an ambush interview right after he personally led the distribution of assistance to market vendors in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on Tuesday.
Go also stated that President Duterte has been informed of this issue and is deeply concerned with the welfare of these children. The Senator also said that the President plans to call on cybercrime units of various concerned agencies for a meeting to address this situation and strengthen safeguards to protect the youth.
“Plano po ipatawag ng Pangulo ang mga cybercrime units and experts from concerned agencies para mapag-usapan kung paano maitigil ito at maproteksyunan ang ating kabataan,’’he said. (The President is planning to meet with the cybercrime units and experts from concerned agencies in order to discuss on how to stop this and protect our youth.)
Moreover, Go also called on the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) to lay down measures to prevent child exploitation and also support them in dealing with the adverse socio-economic impacts of the ongoing health crisis.
CWC Executive Director Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy concurred with Go’s statement, but expressed difficulty to police the Internet for such acts.
She, however, agreed that there is a need to encourage families to come forward and work with the government through CWC should they need assistance on such matters.
For their part, Cajayon-Uy said that they would validate first about those involved in the online selling of photos and videos. Once this is confirmed, the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography might be tapped to intervene on the issue.
The senator urged students in distress to seek his help if they need support for their education rather than resorting to selling lewd photos and videos online. He guaranteed that the government and his office are willing to extend assistance to students who are struggling to support their needs.
Citing a recent study conducted by the Washington-based International Justice Mission which reported that the Philippines is the largest known source of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children cases, Go filed Senate Bill 1650 in July 2020 to amend Republic Act 7610, or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act”, which will enhance the country’s protective measures against child sexual abuse.
“Nakikiusap po ako sa mga otoridad at sa ating komunidad na magmanman at maging mapagmatyag sa mga iligal na mga aktibidad na umaabuso o nag-eexploit sa ating mga kababayan lalo na sa mga kabataan, gaya ng mga nae-engage sa child pornography at online sex crimes,’’ Go said. (I am appealing to the authorities and to our communities to be vigilant against the illegal activities that abuse and exploit our countrymen especially the youth, such as those who engage in child pornography and online sex crimes.)
“Kung may kakilala po tayong gumagawa nito, magsumbong po tayo sa tamang otoridad. Labanan po natin ito, palakasin po natin ang ating mga batas laban dito. Protektahan natin ang mga bata dahil sa kanila nakasalalay ang kinabukasan ng ating bansa,’’he added. (If you know someone doing this, report it to the authorities. Let’s fight it, let’s strengthen our laws against this. Let us protect our children who are the future of our country.)
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has already ordered its attached agency, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), to conduct an investigation over the reported selling of obscene photos and videos.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra gave NBI officer-in-charge Eric Distor 10 days to submit reports on the progress of the investigation.
In a statement, the Department of Education (DepEd) expressed alarm over the rising incidents of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It also gave its full cooperation to government agencies to put a stop to pornography among students.