Senate probe, telcos’ action on rising online child abuse cases pressed
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Imee Marcos is calling on the Senate to investigate the alarming rise of reported cases of sexual abuse of children online amid lockdowns enforced by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The senator also called out telecommunications firms and internet service providers (ISPs), which she said were “falling short” of their duty under the law to report such cases and install technology that detect and block the transmission of pictorial and live child pornography online.
Marcos pushed for the investigation through Senate Resolution No. 487, where she cited data from the Department of Justice and the Department of Social Welfare and Development which showed that such cases from March to May alone more than tripled to about 260,000 compared to the previous year.
The senator raised fears that with more children staying indoors during the pandemic, cases of child sexual abuse may further increase.
She cited a research from the International Justice Mission which found that 62 percent of perpetrators (parents, relatives, family friends, and neighbors) were known to the victims.
Preventine measures and technology
“What preventive measures have our telcos and ISPs taken to block avenues of exploitation like online gaming, chat groups, phishing email and other unsolicited contact in social media?” she said in a statement Sunday.
“The government has relied more often on foreign authorities,” she added.
Marcos noted that the Philippines has been considered by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as the “global epicenter of the live-stream sex abuse trade” and the top global source of child pornography.
Further, she pointed to the recent arrest of an American pedophile in Pampanga, noting that this is just “one of many police operations conducted since the mid-March lockdown.”
The Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center has also rescued 34 minors across the country who were involved in online pornography, the senator added.
“Europol, which is the European Union’s law enforcement agency, has already warned that sexual predators have also found their way to children via online learning applications,” Marcos said, only a few weeks before the country shifts to online learning amid the pandemic.
Pandemic and poverty
She warned that this problem will likely get worse across all social classes as the pandemic forces poor families into “deeper poverty and exposing children with access to digital tools to longer engagement in the private world of the internet.”
“The pandemic has stripped the layers of protection against the sexual abuse of children, including the income security of parents and public interaction under the watchful eyes of teachers, doctors, law enforcers, and responsible members of the community,” Marcos said.
“Even the protection of various laws now appears thin and needs to be reinforced, so that our telcos and ISPs take their responsibilities more seriously,” she added.
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