Child rights advocates call for ‘holistic approach’ to address online exploitation

Published January 19, 2021, 5:32 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

While they support the government’s bid to boost laws protecting children against online exploitation, child rights advocates are pushing for a “holistic approach” to defeat the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) in the country.


The Child Rights Network (CRN), which serves as the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines, expressed support to the recent pronouncement of the Duterte administration to impose stricter regulations to effectively curb the spike in cases of OSEC during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the cabinet meeting last January 11, the administration called for the review of extant laws, rules, and regulations to address OSEC cases in the country. “We note, however, that stopping these online crimes goes beyond imposing sanctions against internet service providers,” the CRN said. “There is also a need to do a comprehensive review of existing laws and policies to address conflicts and implementation bottlenecks,” it added.

For CRN, a solution can be sought in this possible legal conundrum if the government takes the lead and actively enjoins all sectors involved – including ISPs and child rights advocates, in reviewing and amending current statutes.

Over the past year, CRN – with support from our member organizations PLCPD Foundation, Plan International Philippines, ChildFund Philippines, and UNICEF Philippines – has produced a review of existing laws and policies about OSEC. “At a time when the government has put its attention towards reviewing and looking at policies affecting children’s safety online, we deem it timely to reiterate some of our findings and recommendations,” it added.

For CRN, addressing the OSEC epidemic needs a holistic approach – “one that not only blame gaps in existing laws, or the inaction of a particular agency, but rather based on a comprehensive assessment of why such crimes are proliferating, to ensure that proper interventions are pursued.”

“Using a holistic approach that is consultative, comprehensive, and compassionate is key towards defeating OSEC as a nation,” CRN explained.

Citing various studies, CRN pointed out poverty as one of the primary reasons why parents are resorting to trafficking their children online – especially as the pandemic posed economic difficulties to thousands of families.

CRN also enjoined the public and the government to address OSEC using more appropriate terms which is a “simple yet sincere way to show that we are committed to understanding and fully addressing the issue at hand.”

For instance, the group urged the public to refrain from using the term “child pornography” because it normalizes and enables the concept that children willingly engage in such activities for pay — which is far from the reality that they are always victims of such circumstances. “Instead, we should call these materials ‘child sexual abuse materials,’ as these materials are,” it added.