Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed alarm over the rising incidents of cybersex trafficking involving children in the Philippines despite existing laws meant to shield and guard them against all forms of exploitation and violence.
De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 201 directing the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality to inquire into the unabated proliferation of child cybersex abuses in the country and review the status of implementation of existing laws on protecting children from abuses.
“Cybersex abuse is now terribly advancing and spreading to different platforms — from social media networks, dating sites and online chat rooms — thus making the investigation and identification of sexual predators harder,” she said.
“The continuous increase of disturbing and disheartening cases of cyber child sex abuse only shows the utmost need for the government to review, assess and expand the implementation of the laws that are supposed to protect the Filipino youth and children,” she added.
According to the anti-trafficking organization International Justice Mission, the number of rescue operations related to cybersex trade in the Philippines appallingly increased from 17 in 2015 to 51 in the first quarter of 2018, with age of the victims down to below 12 years old.
A report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) further noted that the Philippines has become “the epicentre” of the livestream sexual abuse trade and the No. 1 global source of child pornography.” It also divulged that the Philippine Justice Department receives more than 3,000 reports from overseas of possible cybersex trafficking cases every month.
Based on the 2019 records of PNP Women and Children Protection Center’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, among the hotspots for child pornography trades in the country are found in Taguig City, while Iligan City, Cebu, Pampanga and Tarlac are areas with the most recorded cases of cybersex trafficking.
“Many victims are exploited by their own families and unable or afraid to speak out, while the encrypted nature of modern technology from messaging to video call apps makes criminals tough to track,” the former justice secretary noted.
De Lima, a staunch anti-human trafficking advocate, said she hopes that the proposed Senate investigation into the cases of cybersex trafficking in the country could lead to possible legislation imposing stiff penalty and hefty fines against sexual predators.
“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 said.
The lady Senator from Bicol also underscored the need to coordinate the Philippine government’s efforts with its international allies “to overcome all obstacles in terms of enforcement, particularly in tracking international offenders who are protected by internet anonymity.”
“There is urgent need to take notice and act as these types of crime tend to proliferate quickly with the advent of exponential advancement and sophistication of technologies connected to the internet,” she said.
This 18th Congress, De Lima 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.