The word “online” must be retained in the title and body of the bill on “Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children” (OSAEC), since removing it would take the focus away from the real goal — to eliminate crimes committed using information and communications technology (ICT).
This was stressed by the Child Rights Network, the largest alliance of child rights organizations in the Philippines, after the House Committee on the Welfare of Children and the House Committee on Revision of Laws approved the OSAEC bill last week but removed the word “online” from the title and the body of the bill.
“We stand firm that the bill at hand should retain the essential term ‘online’ in its title and body, as omitting the word without considering the grave repercussions is tantamount to haphazardly bulldozing the concerted efforts of many experts and advocates who helped Congress draft the pending bill,” the CRN said.
It said it respected the move of the legislators to delete the word “online” in the title so that the bill will also cover “offline” crimes against children.
However, it stressed that as long as ICT is involved in any stage of the commission of a punishable act, even if it leads to an offline offense or crime, it will still fall under OSAEC and will therefore be punishable by the draft legislation.
It pointed out as a “noble act” on the part of legislators to attempt to expand the coverage of the draft bill to all sexual crimes against children, even if it is done without the use of ICT.
But since it was not extensively discussed during consultations and technical working group meetings, CRN begged legislators not to overreach.
“The provisions of this current bill specifically address the nuances of OSAEC and the same provisions are not comprehensive enough to cover the other complex issues of sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” it explained.
“Therefore, transforming the current bill, which focuses on the online dimension of these crimes, into a more encompassing law might prove to be a futile move in the long run, as such action is bereft of deeper inquiries and consultations,” it added.
It said it also “aspires” for the creation of a comprehensive child protection code against sexual abuse and exploitation. But in order to make this effective would require more studies, consultations, and investigations, it added.
Thus, CRN asked the legislators to draft a “landmark legislation” judiciously, and not just change the current focus of the OSAEC bill.
“Our request to the House Committee on the Welfare of Children is simple yet brimming with importance and consequence: retain the term ‘online’ in the consolidated bill’s title and body,” it stressed.