As ‘Mahilig sa Bata’ page surfaces, NBI urged to probe online child sexual exploitation amid COVID-19 pandemic

May 15, 2020 - 5:23 PM
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Image by Ongchinonn via Pixabay

Sen. Risa Hontiveros is calling on the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the Facebook pages allegedly exploiting children online, following reports of rising cases of domestic abuse during the lockdown. 

In an open letter addressed to the NBI, Hontiveros on Thursday said her office found Facebook pages that contains lewd photos of young girls 

Dear NBI, Please help put a stop to Facebook and online pages that sexually exploit children. Nakarating sa opisina…

Posted by Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday, May 13, 2020

 

She reported that one of these pages called “Mahilig sa Bata” has been active for a while now. She also attached screenshots of this pages and its content.  

Nananawagan ako sa Bureau na imbistigahan at agarang i-take down ang mga Facebook pages na itoKailangan malaman din ng NBI kung sino-sino ang mga taong nagpapatakbo nitoKailangang panagutin at ipakulong ang mga kriminal na nasa likod ng mga Facebook pages at online content na ito,” Hontiveros said.  

The page she mentioned has since been inaccessible as of writing.  

The senator also further disclosed that there are reports of alleged online sexual exploitation of children during the quarantine period, wherein Filipinos are strictly ordered to stay at home.  

The enhanced community quarantine, imposed by the national government since March, and other types of lockdown measures, are being implemented to limit the public movement and help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.  

However, the strict stay-at-home rule made some Filipinos, particularly children, more vulnerable to online exploitation and other forms of domestic abuse.  

Ngayong COVID-19 pandemic, may mga reports na nagsasabing pwedeng mas dadami ang kaso ng online sexual exploitation of children. We need to be more vigilant and make sure that our children are safe and secure, online and offline,” Hontiveros said.  

She also urged Facebook Inc. to be responsible in keeping its platform safe and secure from such accounts and pages.  

Kailangan nating protektahan ang online space bilang mga safe spaces. We need to make sure that our children are safe online, lalo na ngayong mas marami ang oras na ginugugol nila sa social media,” Hontiveros said.  

Moreover, the senator also advised the public to be wary of these kinds of accounts and immediately reporthem to Facebook.  

Hontiveros’s post on child exploitation reached Liza Soberano and said she was enraged about it. She also asked if someone’s doing something to address it.

Child abuse and domestic violence amid the pandemic  

Around the world  

As many countries affected by the pandemic employed strict containment protocols, the United Nations Population Fund warned that this measure could lead to millions of more cases of violence against women and children, aside from the severe toll in the global economy.  

The UNFPA projected that there would be at least seven million unintended pregnancies and 31 million cases of gender-based violence should lockdown continue for the next six months.  

Moreover, because of the strict travel restrictions, delays in the organization’s programs against child marriages and female genital mutilation could also lead to an estimated two million cases of mutilation and 13 million more of child marriages for the next decade.  

“A great deal is still unknown about how the pandemic, and the response to it, will unfold around the world. But together, the projections offer an alarming view of the future that could confront women and girls if efforts are not urgently made to secure their welfare and ensure their rights,” the UNFPA said 

In the Philippines 

A consortium of Save the Children Philippines, the Asia Foundation, and the UN’s Children’s Fund called SaferKidsPH launched an SMS campaign to help mobile subscribers raise awareness against online sexual exploitation and abuse while quarantine measures are still in place 

This initiative was in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the National Telecommunications Commission, and telecommunications companies Smart Communications, and Globe Telecom. 

SaferKidsPH, which is funded by the Australian government, can be contacted via its website and social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.  

Tumaas ang bilang ng reports ng child online sexual abuse 'nung nagsimula ang community quarantine nitong March (based…

Posted by SaferKidsPH on Tuesday, April 28, 2020

 

The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, urged the Duterte administration to adopt safe and legal measures to help prevent cases of domestic violence and provide enough protection to victims while the country copes with the health crisis.  

While we recognize that the priority is to address the threat of the disease, we urge the government to equally undertake measures to combat domestic violence and to provide protection for the rights of women and children,” the commission said 

“Likewise, we encourage the government to adopt measures ensuring that victims of abuses have access to legal aid, such as restraining orders even during the crisis; to provide safe shelters and financial aid for those who wanted to leave their house; and to provide medical and psychological care through helpline services which victims could access via online chats and texting services as calls might not be the safest way of reporting,” it added.  

Among the Philippines laws that cover online sexual exploitation of children include Cybercrime Prevention Act, Anti-Child Pornography Act and Anti-Child Abuse Law.

In February, however, the Child Rights Network lamented how these laws failed to define online sexual exploitation of children and the punishments against it as it urged lawmakers to address these gaps.

“These laws do not clearly define OSEC, punish the livestreaming of child sexual abuse and impose obligations on private sector to prevent OSEC,” CRN convenor Romero Dongeto was quoted by The Philippine Star as saying in a forum.