House okays Anti-Child Pornography Bill

August 25, 2009 3:37 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Aug. 25 — Despite the perennial lack of quorum at the House of Representatives for the past weeks, lawmakers on Monday crossed party lines to unanimously approve on third and final reading House Bill 6440 under Committee Report No. 2071, to be known as the "Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009," which defines the crime of child pornography and prescribing penalties for violations.

"As a proud signatory to international treaties concerning the rights of children, the State is bound to take all appropriate legislative measures to protect children from all forms of neglect, cruelty and other conditions prejudicial to their growth and development," said Tarlac Rep. Monica Prieto-Teodoro, chairperson of the House committee on the welfare of children.

"This bill is our bold action to guarantee the fundamental rights of every Filipino child from all forms of sexual exploitation, including child pornography," she said.

Child pornography is defined as any representation, by whatever means — be it visual, audio or in written form — of a child engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child primarily for sexual purposes.

"Anyone who produces, distributes, publishes and commits other acts related to child pornography should be subject to the penalties due for their actions," said Prieto-Teodoro.

She noted the measure institutionalizes the country's "sincere effort to safeguard our children, to educate, and heighten awareness of all citizens, particularly parents and children on the threat of child pornography which can take advantage of their innocence and poverty."

For his part, Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor said HB 6440 "will guarantee that our children will never be a part of the harrowing statistics of child pornography."

"With proper implementation, this bill will protect our children against child pornography and its devastating effects, and will equip enforcers with the legal basis to help stop this menace and to bring to justice the perpetrators and predators," he said.

HB 6440 also imposes penalties ranging from 'aresto mayor' to 'reclusion temporal' in its maximum period as well as fines amounting to not less than P30,000 but not more than P2 million, depending on the gravity of the offense committed.

"No one is exempt from these penalties, even the Internet Providers and Internet Content Hosts are subject to the consequences if they are negligent or have violated any of the provisions," said Prieto-Teodoro.

South Cotabato Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio, one of the principal authors of the measure, cited reports submitted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which stated that around 20 percent of all Internet pornography are children-based.

It was also estimated that around 83 percent of the images are those of children ages 6 to 12 years old, and 39 percent of the images are those from the age group 3 to 5 years old.

Under HB 6440, the hiring, using, inducing or coercing of a child to perform in the production of any sexual production/child pornography; producing, directing, manufacturing or creating any form of child pornography materials; selling, offering, advertising and promoting child pornography and its materials; possessing, downloading, purchasing, reproducing or making available child pornography with the intent of selling or distributing them; publishing, posting, exhibiting, disseminating, distributing, transmitting or broadcasting child pornography and its materials; and engaging in the luring and grooming of a child are considered unlawful.

The bill provides that the child who is a victim of child pornography shall be recognized as a victim of violent crime as defined under Sec.3 (d), Republic Act 7309, and thus, may claim compensation.

The child and family shall also be entitled to protection as well as the rights and benefits of witnesses under RA 6981.

The measure also provides for the creation of an Inter-Agency Council against child pornography to be headed by the Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare Development (DSWD) and composed of the heads of the country’s different departments/offices as members — Department Of Justice (DoJ), Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Department of Science and Technology (DoST), Philippine National Police (PNP), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), National Telecommunication Commission (NTC), and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), among others.

There shall also be three representatives from children's non-government organizations (NGOs).

The bill also provides for the establishment of a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee composed of five members each from the Senate and the House of Representatives, which shall be headed by the respective chairpersons of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the House Committee on Justice.

Other authors of the bill are BUHAY party-list Rep. Rene Velarde, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, ARC party-list Rep. Narciso Santiago III, and co-authored by 124 congressmen.

Meanwhile, Speaker Prospero Nograles has called on Tuesday afternoon an all-member caucus aimed to find a solution to the lack of quorum which has derailed the debates and passage of pending measures in the Lower Chamber.

Since two weeks ago, the session would usually open at 4 p.m. but would immediately be suspended because there were not enough warm bodies on the floor. By 5 p.m., the secretariat would make the roll call and the quorum of 136 is usually met, but the congressmen would again disappear from the session hall one by one leaving only a handful listening to the proceedings.

Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez, on Monday's session, questioned if the roll call also included his colleagues who just happen to pass by the hall.

Nograles, after the meeting, said that the Lower Chamber is now ready to receive and deliberate the proposed 2010 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which Malacanang, through Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., will submit on Wednesday (August 26).

"Together with Majority Leader Arthur Defensor and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Junie Cua, we have mobilized all the different subcommittees of the latter's mother panel to be ready to take up the different budget proposals of the various departments, offices, Constitutional bodies and government corporations and agencies," he said. (PNA)

DCT/LGI

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