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'PHILIPPINES IS ONE OF GLOBAL HOTSPOTS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE, EXPLOITATION'

Bill against online child abuse, exploitation up for Senate plenary debates

/ 05:32 PM May 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines A measure that aims to strengthen the protection of children against online sexual abuse and exploitation is now up for plenary deliberations in the Senate.

This, after Senator Risa Hontiveros sponsored for plenary approval Senate Bill No. 2209 or the proposed Special Protections against Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) Law.

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“The Philippines is one of the global hotspots of child sexual abuse and exploitation committed on online platforms,” said Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate women and children committee.

“The call to end OSAEC is therefore urgent. But it is equally important that — because of the unique features and the peculiar difficulties of the crime considering its online and often transnational element — we make sure that the tools we use are good tools,” she added.

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She pointed to the case of Australian Peter Scully, who was convicted of human trafficking after he sexually abused minors, filmed his acts, and sold them to his clients in other countries.

“Ang kanyang pinaka-notorious na video sa kanyang pay-per-view site ay may title na ‘Daisy’s Destruction.’ Opo, isang video na nagsasalaysay ng panggagahasa at pananakit ng isang 18-month old na batang babae. He was deemed the world’s worst pedophile,” Hontiveros said.

While Scully’s case “truly stands out,” the senator pointed out that statistics on the production of child sexual abuse and exploitation materials in the country “are staggering.”

Youngest victim a 2-month-old baby

“According to the UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) in 2016, we were one of the top ten countries producing child sexual abuse and exploitation materials,” she added.

“The youngest recorded Filipino victim of OSAEC was a 2-month-old baby,” she further said.

Cases of OSAEC in the country, Hontiveros further lamented, increased amid the pandemic.

Citing data from the Department of Justice, the senator noted that OSAEC cases in the Philippines rose by 264.6 percent during the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine from March to May 2020.

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“Ang kadalasan na primary traffickers? Mga magulang, immediate family members, o di kaya mga kapitbahay o miyembro din ng community,” she said.

“The International Justice Mission actually reported that in 87 percent of cases, a female trafficker was involved, usually the mother or close female relative,” she added.

According to Hontiveros, the anti-OSAEC bill is a product of several rounds of consultations with various stakeholders, including several non-governmental organizations that conducted rescue operations on the ground, local and international law enforcement agencies as well as internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunication companies.

“My office even held bilateral meetings with Facebook and with Google because if we want to strategically address OSAEC, we really need the buy-in of internet intermediaries and social media networks,” she further said.

“After all, according to global reports, Facebook messenger was responsible for 16.8 million of the 18.4 million reports of child sexual abuse material – or 91 percent of the total,” she added.

The bill, according to Hontiveros, defines and penalizes OSAEC as a “specific crime and distinct from offenses” under the country’s anti-trafficking and child protection laws.

“It builds on the gains of [Republic Act] 9775, the Anti Child Pornography Act of 2009, which sought to make the ISPs accountable,” she also said.

Further, the measure provides additional tools for law enforcers to pursue perpetrators of OSAEC, “especially those who are hiding under the veil of anonymity provided by online platforms.”

It also imposes additional duties on internet intermediaries, including social media networks, such as the blocking and removal of child sexual abuse or exploitation material within 24 hours from receipt of notice, preservation of evidence in their possession, and development and adoption of systems and procedures for preventing, blocking, detecting and reporting of OSAEC cases, according to Hontiveros.

The proposed law further bans the entry into the Philippines of all convicted perpetrators of OSAEC or similar or equivalent crimes in other jurisdictions, or those aliens reported to or being monitored by Philippine law enforcement authorities for conducting OSAEC activities.

It likewise seeks to establish the National Coordination Center Against OSAEC  (NCC-OSAEC) under the Department of Justice’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.

The NCC-OSAEC, the measure states, will be the point-of-contact and coordination system for the receipt of cyber-tipline reports.

The bill also aims to form a “gender-responsive, age-appropriate, child-friendly, victim-centered and trauma-informed set of protocols for reporting, detecting, investigating, prosecuting and providing aftercare assistance and support in OSAEC cases,” Hontiveros continued.

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TAGS: child abuse, Nation, News, OSAEC, Risa Hontiveros, Senate, Senate Bill No. 2209
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