Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has renewed her call for a Senate review into the status of implementation of existing laws on protecting children from abuses as she expressed alarm over continued incidents of cybersex trafficking involving Filipino youth amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
De Lima, a staunch anti-human trafficking advocate, lamented how suspects are taking advantage of the community quarantine and the current health crisis to exploit children.
“Dahil sa lumulubha pang kahirapan na dala ng pandemya, maraming pamilyang Pilipino ang nahuhulog sa patibong ng pag-abuso sa internet para kumita. Sa kasawiang palad, ang mga inosenteng bata ang nabibiktima ng sekswal na pang-aabusong ito ng sarili pa nilang mga kapamilya, lalo pa’t nasa bahay lang ang mga kabataan at mas maraming oras ang mga mapagsamantala sa panahong ito ng krisis,” she said.
“The proliferation of cases of child cybersex abuses in the country requires serious attention and response from the government that is why I urge my esteemed colleagues in the Senate to act with dispatch on my proposed Senate Resolution No. 201, which I filed as early as 2019, urging Congress to review the status of implementation of existing laws on protecting children from abuses,” she added.
Based on media reports, up to 14 minors were rescued when the PNP-Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit-Bicol raided a cybersex den in Camarines Sur last May 7.
PLt. Angelo Babagay, team leader of the Camarines Sur Cyber Crime Response Team of the PNP-Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit-Bicol, confirmed that the youths recruited in the online child pornography operation by four suspected residents of Barangay San Antonio ranged in age from 2 to 17 years old. The victims rescued were apparently children and nephews of the suspects.
Babagay said they seized pornographic materials and electronic gadgets allegedly used in cybersex and online pornography, as well as money transfer receipts which showed that suspects earn around 5,000 per transaction, saying “Bibigyan lang kung magkano [ang] bata. Ang nag-profit itong mga suspect person.”
While De Lima lauded the PNP-Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit-Bicol for rescuing the minors, she stressed that a Senate investigation into the cases of cybersex trafficking in the country is necessary as it could lead to possible legislation imposing stiffer penalty and heftier fines against sexual predators.
“I am relieved to know that the PNP-Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit-Bicol managed to rescue these innocent minors, but our fight against cyber child sex abuse should not end there,” she said.
“The pervasive problem of child abuse and sex trafficking in the Philippines calls urgently for more vigilant, tougher and higher penalties to eradicate this growing industry of child exploitation through cyber pornography in the country and consequently ensure that offenders are held accountable, and due justice is delivered to children,” she added.
In filing SR No. 201, De Lima urged the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality to inquire into the unabated proliferation of child cybersex abuses in the country. The said resolution remains pending in the Committee.
This 18th Congress, De Lima also filed Senate Bill No. 621 requiring commercial establishments and public institutions to use appropriate filtering devices that will restrict children’s access to harmful materials in the internet.
When she was justice secretary, De Lima chaired the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to coordinate efforts in implementing laws against human trafficking, including all forms of sexual exploitation, which resulted in the country’s attainment of the Tier 1 Status in the annual United States Trafficking in Persons Report in 2016. (30)