Alarmed at the rising records of online sexual exploitation involving minors, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for the immediate convening of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9775, also known as the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.
De Lima, a known anti-human trafficking advocate, said the oversight committee should look into the law’s strict implementation and propose necessary remedial measures that will strengthen the country’s fight against child abuse online.
“The proliferation of child pornography in the country continues, and even worsens, in spite of existing laws penalizing such bestial acts,” she said in the Senate Resolution (SR) No. 599 she filed.
“It is important to determine what needs to be done to ensure that law enforcement agencies are able to keep up with the challenges posed by new and emerging technologies,” she added.
R.A No. 9775 was enacted to “guarantee the fundamental rights of every child from all forms of neglect, cruelty and other conditions prejudicial to his/her development and protect every child from all forms of exploitation and abuse,” including the use of a child in explicit sexual activities.
Last October, Senior Supt. Villamor Tuliao, chief of the anti-trafficking in persons division of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Women and Children Protection Center, noted with serious concern the rising incidents of online sex exploitation involving Filipino children.
De Lima noted that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in its 2017 State of the World’s Children Report, cited the intensifying risks caused by the digital age on childhood, such as “made-to-order” child sexual abuse material and live streaming of child sexual abuse, among others.
“New technologies – like crypto-currencies and the Dark web – are fuelling live streaming of child sexual abuse and other harmful content, and challenging the ability of law enforcement to keep up,” according to the 2017 UNICEF Report.
The Senator from Bicol likewise expressed grave concern over UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake’s revelation about the case of an 18-year-old Filipino girl who was allegedly “forced to perform live-stream sex acts by a neighbor who operates a child sexual abuse website.”
“Children and their parents should be aware of, and capacitated to guard against, the harms posed by the exposure of children to digital technology, including the dangers posed by the three main online risk categories,” De Lima said, referring to the “Content, Contact and Conduct Risks” as categorized by the 2017 UNICEF report.
According to UNICEF’s 2017 State of the World’s Children Report, the risks encountered online can now be categorized into three, including (1) Content Risks, “where a child is exposed to unwelcome and inappropriate content” (2) Contact Risks, “where a child participates in risky communication” and (3) Conduct Risks, “where a child behaves in a way that contributes to risky content or contact.”
In her resolution, De Lima said she believes that the Congressional Oversight Committee on R.A. 9775 is now in order to ensure that the private sector is effectively being tapped and motivated to help combat the online exploitation and abuse of children.
“Obtaining participation from private sector, such as telecommunication companies, can be successful through the provision of adequate incentives and mechanisms to facilitate their cooperation, and penalties for their undue failure to assist and cooperate with law enforcement agencies in combating these heinous crimes,” she said.
De Lima’s proposed SR No. 599 is just among her efforts to protect children from violence. Last year, she filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1499, also known as the Online Child Safety Act, which requires commercial establishments and public institutions to use appropriate filtering devices that will restrict children’s access to harmful materials online.
The former justice secretary also filed SB No. 1348, which proposes to prohibit corporal punishment and all other forms of “humiliating and degrading” acts imposed on children and SB No. 195, which seeks to impose stiffer penalties on those who involve children in their criminal activities, last year.