EDITORIAL

Action, not silence, the right response to PH tag as child porn hub

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This is a depressing editorial for us to write and publish, following our editorial the other day, which welcomed the World Bank prognosis that the Philippines will continue to be the fastest-growing economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

But this must be done. We have a responsibility as a news organization to report both the good and the bad.

So here goes. In its January 4 issue, the Economist, the prestigious weekly magazine, published a report on the Philippines entitled, “Hub of child pornography.”

The article is not just an eye-opener. It is a shocker for our government and our citizens to read.


In the article, the magazine reports that the country has become a global hub for the production of child pornography and sexual abuse of children. Here is a network of porn producers and consumers that sustains the business. The magazine backs up its claims with fact-checking on the work of one center for teen abuse, and with interviews with young people who have fallen victim to the menace of sexual abuse and exploitation.

It reports on the work of the Center of Hope, a shelter run by a foreign NGO. It also cites interviews with people on the frontline of the problem

In a cruel irony, the magazine avers that historical, technological and social factors have helped to turn the Philippines into such a horrific hub. The high level of proficiency in English, a relic of the country’s time as an American colony, means that both children and those abusing them can communicate easily with clients. The swift spread of the internet, to which 55 percent of Filipinos now have access, up from 9 percent in 2009, means cybersex dens can operate in increasingly remote areas of the country. Widespread mistrust of the police discourages both cybersex victims and those who suspect wrongdoing from asking for their help. And the fact that a higher proportion of people in the country use methamphetamines or amphetamines than in any other country in Asia, abets the problem.

The presidential spokesman and government communicators will predictably protest or dispute this story. But we think the proper approach is for our government – the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Philippine National Police, among others – to investigate and determine the veracity of this report. Effort must be exerted to determine whether the problem is really rife.

The government must waste no time visiting and seeing for itself the so-called Center of Hope, because it is billed as just outside of the metropolitan capital. The malady could be real or it could be worse.

There are victims of abuse and exploitation. And there are perpetrators of crimes and profiteers. And there are those who profit from this sordid business.

If we have here a full-blown social emergency, the nation must know. We have to get at the truth by seeking it from the facts. There is appalling demand for this horrific content on the internet, especially in Australia and America. We have to know and understand the problem better.

All is not lost. Technology, says the Economist, allows the authorities better ways of tracking down consumers in faraway places. A recent six-week pilot project conducted by the Philippine police was a big success. The Australian authorities and Interpol, a group through which the world’s police forces co-operate, are now also interested.

There is something here also for Congress to address and act on. Like other countries, we must consider modifying our laws to extirpate these online horrors. Child pornography should have no space to breathe in this country.

Determined action by our government is the best response to the Economist report.

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