Photo courtesy by UN News
By Ernie Reyes
Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Congress to investigate the reported surge of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) during the COVID-19 pandemic to hold perpetrators accountable and address the aggravating factors and root causes of child abuse in the Philippines.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 745, De Lima said that the State must recognize that while health protocols are necessary, protective measures that will provide essential services to uphold the rights of the youth must not be sidelined.
“These sexual predators have thrived in this pandemic for far too long at the expense of the innocence and purity of our children,” she said.
“A full investigation must thus be carried out where all those who contribute to the growing trend including online platforms that allow them to proliferate or condone their proliferation by acquiescence, are prosecuted,” she added.
The Philippines has been tagged as the global epicenter of livestream sexual trafficking of children based on data from the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC).
Tech companies reported that more than 1.29 million images and videos of child pornography came from the Philippines in 2020, which was more than triple the number in 2019 or before the pandemic hit.
Likewise, in the early weeks of lockdown, from March 1 to May 24, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reported 202,605 cases of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) or a 265% increase compared with the same period the previous year.
Just last March, Mama Fatima Singhateh, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, said the COVID-19 pandemic had caused a socio-economic crisis that had worsened the existing stark inequalities of vulnerable children which resulted in the amplification of their risks to sale, trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse.
De Lima underscored the need to enhance the government’s research and online monitoring systems and allocate more resources to combat the proliferation of such illegal activities victimizing children.
“While individuals who engage and facilitate such illegal acts should rightly be punished, structural issues of poverty, inequality and inadequate government support should also be considered in the bigger picture that needs to be addressed,” she said.
“Now is the time for us to step up and be the defenders that the children of this nation desperately need. We are bound by our duty to create an environment for them that is safe, where their innocence is protected and their rights are upheld,” she added.
In 2019, De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 201 directing the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality to inquire into the continued proliferation of child cybersex abuses in the country.
In 2020, she filed a related Resolution, logged as SR No. 385, urging Congress to investigate the rising cases of cybersex abuses victimizing the youth amid the COVID-19 pandemic.