The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and representatives of non-government organizations on Thursday launched an anti-child cybercrime campaign to emphasize the importance of child online protection.
The two-day Child Online Protection (COP) Summit was held in Manila with the theme “Enabling Dynamic Partnerships: The role of everyone to protect children and young people safe and secure online.”
“Children are the hope of the future and among society’s most vulnerable members. The government and child protection advocates must ensure that their safety and well-being are prioritized,” DSWD officer-in-charge Emmanuel A. Leyco said.
Since November is National Children’s Month, the summit tackled ideas on how to provide a platform to discuss challenges and identify solutions related to approaches to ensure child online safety; strengthen knowledge sharing and experience in raising awareness and education; and encourage partnerships between the public and private sectors for a strategic plan of action in fighting online abuses and exploitation of children and young people.
In 2016, the DSWD recorded 85 child victims of online sexual abuse. This year, 76 cases were reported but officials expect the number to rise by December.
DSWD assistant director Rosalie Dagulo said online sexual trafficking is a “high-technology problem” that limits the Philippines from proactively monitoring rising cases, more so, cases that occur in the victims’ household.
“As far as convictions are concerned, we have a total of 320 but only 22 of these cases involve minors who were victims of online sexual exploitation in the country,” said Darlene Pajarito of the DSWD’s Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP) secretariat. Darlene Pajarito.
“What we should do in the field of online child abuse is to rebuild barriers to internet access, modes of payment in transactions,” Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Child Protection Program counselor Clare Duffield said.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) gave assurances that government will allocate bigger budget for child online protection.
According to DICT assistant secretary Allan Cabanlong, the Philippines lacks tools that can locate perpetrators involved in the exploitation of children.
“Next year, the government will provide P500 million to enhance cybersecurity. We are working with the National Privacy Commission to assure that human rights are further protected, “ he said.
Sen. Grace Poe has sought an investigation into the proliferation of child pornography and sexual exploitation amid reports that the Philippines ranks fourth among nations with the most number of “prostituted” children.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said “child prostitution is a kin of child pornography.” According to the DSWD, anywhere from 60,000 to 600,000 streetchildren are victims of child prostitution.
“In fact, the Philippines ranks fourth among countries with the most number of prostituted children. A study by the Psychological Trauma Program of the University of the Philippines notes that prostitution may now be the country’s fourth largest source of GNP (gross national product),” Unicef said.
Poe cited the Plan International study “Sex Trade in the Digital Age” which found that eight in 10 victims rescued from online sex rings are minors, with some as young as two months old.
The same study indicated that children are not only being put up for sale on websites, but are also being engaged through social media sites such as Facebook, dating apps like Tinder and Grindr, messaging apps such as Viber and Whatsapp, and e-commerce platforms like Craigslist.
“We are included in the top five countries where the persons being trafficked are children. Evidently, the commercial sexual exploitation of Filipino children has become a social epidemic in the Philippines,” Poe said.
“This makes cyberspace an increasingly dangerous place for children and young people as it is now being used to facilitate their exploitation.
As the nation celebrates National Children’s Month, Poe pushed for an investigation that will focus on “putting an end to this social epidemic” which she described as “disturbing as it is fast becoming a pervasive and extensive problem.”
“We need to show our countrymen as well as the rest of the world, that a Filipino child is not for sale,” said the senator. “I thus urge the Senate to conduct an investigation on the proliferation of pornography involving children in the country amid measures already in place to punish perpetrators and criminalize unlawful acts. The dignity of a child cannot be bought; it must never be compromised.”
with GLEE JALEA