Sale of teens’ sexual images on the rise in Philippines amid COVID-19 pandemic — report

November 2, 2021 - 7:57 PM
online abuse
Image by Ongchinonn via Pixabay

A global alliance against children exploitation and abuse raised alarm over the rising cases of the buy and sell of teenagers’ sexual images in the Philippines in a recent report.

The WeProtect Global Alliance released a comprehensive report titled “2021 Global Threat Assessment” that found an alarming rise in online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) cases in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WeProtect is a global movement that comprises more than 200 governments, civil society organizations and private sector companies that work together to stop OSAEC.

Their new assessment cited the Internet Watch Foundation that recorded 77% rise in child “self-generated” sexual material from 2019 to 2020.

The US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) also processes 60,000 reports of child sexual abuse online every day.

“Its findings show that the scale of child sexual exploitation and abuse online is increasing at such a rapid rate that a step change is urgently required in the global response to create safe online environments for children,” the alliance said in a statement.

The Philippines as global center of online sexual trade

In their report, WeProtect raised alarm over the Philippines being named as “global epicenter of the live stream sexual abuse trade” by UNICEF early this year.

These months also happened to be the same period when tough lockdowns were imposed to supposedly curb COVID-19 transmissions.

WeProtect cited an online group created by teenagers in the Philippines where sexual images were bought and sold.

It had since been taken down. However, prior to deletion, it had 7,000 members.

The International Justice Mission (IJM) also released a case study that documented eight instances wherein large amounts of money were being transferred from traffickers abroad to the Philippines over many years.

Last May, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism released a similar article titled “Digital Sex Crimes in Asia: The Filipino mothers selling their children for online sexual abuse.”

In the article, it was stated that tech companies found a staggering 1.29 million images and videos of child abuse materials from the country last year.

The Department of Justice also reported 202,605 cases of OSEC from March 1 to May 24, 2020.

This translated to a 265% increase compared to the same period in 2019.

Moreover, Facebook found 279,166 images of child sexual abuse and similar content on its platform during the same months.

Some Filipinos previously raised neglect, poverty and lack of education as among the main factors that contribute to the worsening online child abuse and exploitation in the country.

RELATED: Lack of education, neglect raised after Philippines tagged as ‘global epicenter’ of live-streamed child porn 

‘Wake-up call’

Iain Drennan, Executive Director of WeProtect Global Alliance, stated that these figures that showed the scale of child abuse in the world should serve as a “wake-up call.”

“The internet has become central to children’s lives across the world, even more so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two years, we have observed an increase in the scale and complexity of child sexual abuse online,” Drennan said.

“This report should act as a wake-up call to us all; together we must step up the global response and create a safer digital world for all children,” he added.

In the country, Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Bill before the Senate “to strengthen the protection of children against online sexual abuse and exploitation.”

As of May this year, the bill is up for Senate plenary debates, according to reports.