Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought a Senate investigation into the increasing number of cases of child cybersex abuses in the country despite the existence of at least five laws designed to protect children from abuses, exploitation and violence.
De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 945 as the international community observes today (Nov. 20) the World Children’s Day and the anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which the Philippines is a signatory.
“Cybersex abuse is now terribly advancing and spreading to different platforms – from social media networks, dating sites and online chat rooms – thus making the investigation and identification of sexual predators harder,” she said.
“The continuous increase of disturbing and disheartening cases of cyber child sex abuse only shows the utmost need for the government to review, assess and expand the implementation of the laws that are supposed to protect the Filipino youth and children,” she added.
Despite having five existing laws aimed to protect children against abuse, exploitation and violence, the Philippines has reportedly become a top global source of child pornography with around 80 percent of children at risk of online abuse or bullying.
These laws are Republic Act (RA) 7610, also known as Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act; RA 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act; RA 9231 or the Anti-Child Labor Law; RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act; and RA 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
Based on the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Philippines receives more than 3,000 reports of possible cybersex trafficking cases every month.
The International Justice Mission has also recorded an appalling increase of the number of rescue operations from 17 in 2015 to 51 in the first nine months of this year as it expressed alarm that the age of victims has become as young as 12 years old.
De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, attributed the rise of cybersex trafficking to widespread poverty, especially in Central Visayas and Mindanao where poverty incidence is said to be highest.
“The pervasive problem of child abuse and sex trafficking is in the Philippines calls urgently for more vigilant, tougher and highest penalties to eradicate this growing industry of child exploitation through cyber pornography,” she said.
She said the Senate investigation should look into the effective implementation of these existing laws against child abuse and exploitation and consequently make offenders accountable and for due justice to be delivered to the children.
In May 2017, De Lima has also filed Senate Resolution No. 379 which seeks to investigate the increasing number of children being lured to “webcam child sex tourism” where they are paid to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam to paying foreigners.
As then justice secretary, De Lima chaired the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to coordinate efforts in implementing the principal laws against human trafficking, including all forms of slavery, forced labor and sexual exploitation.
The IACAT efforts resulted in the attainment of the Tier 1 Status in the annual United States Trafficking in Persons Report in 2016 for having “fully met the minimum standards in eliminating human trafficking in the country.”