MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday vowed to hold predators accountable for their crimes following a spike in online child sex abuse across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported a 260-percent increase in reports of online child abuse materials from March to May when the country was in a strict lockdown.
He said he would relay the report to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“Pararating po natin iyan sa cybercrime division ng NBI at ng PNP, at I will make sure na they will be accountable. Malalaman po natin anong (I will relay that to the cybercrime division of the NBI and PNP and I will make sure that they will be accountable. We will find out what) steps being taken by both the PNP and the NBI cybercrimes offices,” he said.
According to a report from Agence France-Presse, International Justice Mission (IJM) Philippines Director John Tanagho earlier said lockdowns created the “perfect storm” for increases in online sexual exploitation of children.
He said many of the victims are first abused by their own parents, who livestream the sexual violence for predators in wealthy Western nations.
“The sexual abuse is directed, it’s paid for and it’s consumed live by child sex offenders around the world who don’t need to leave the comfort of their home,” he said.
The UNICEF said sexual violence results in severe physical, psychological, and social harm.
“Victims experience an increased risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, pain, illness, unwanted pregnancy, social isolation, and psychological trauma,” the UNICEF said.
It noted that some victims may resort to risky behaviors like substance abuse to cope with trauma. As child victims reach adulthood, sexual violence can reduce their ability to care for themselves and others.
“The internet has opened a rapidly growing global market for the production, distribution, and consumption of child sexual abuse materials, such as photographs and videos. When online, children may be susceptible to sexual coercion and in-contact sexual abuse by offenders who attempt to extort them for content and financial gain,” the humanitarian organization said.
Depending on the actual sexual acts and exploitation committed against a child, investigators and prosecutors use laws, such as Republic Act (RA) No. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, RA 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, as amended by RA 10364, and RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, in indicting persons. (PNA)