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Asia-Pacific

Local Legislators Step Up Fight Against Online Child Sex Abuse

December 2022

PHILIPPINES – Five trailblazing local government units have emerged as champions in the fight against the Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) in the Philippines, laying the legal foundations for authorities in their districts to a launch a ground-up response to one of the world’s most heinous and hidden crimes.

Capitalising on tough new national laws enacted in July 2022, legislators from different cities have handed down blueprints to fight online child abuse at the local level, where there is currently a lack of awareness of this newly emerging crime and resources to combat it.

Vice Mayor Justin Silos Gatuslao, pioneer of the blueprint for Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental said

“We are glad to note that we have the framework to prevent this crime from happening, and also to ensure that the victims – should there be any – are well taken care of.”

The latest move comes amid a wave of official support for child protection and prosecution of offenders in the Philippines, the global hotspot for the Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC).

Atty. Nelisa Guevara-Garcia, Director of National Prosecution Development at IJM Philippines shared

“Legislation is the key to child protection. The mushroom effect that this will have on the fight against child abusers cannot be overstated. The local legislators who took this swift action should be commended – and thankfully there is more to come.”

The National Prosecution Development at IJM Philippines helped establish the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC), which has worked alongside local, British, and Australian police since 2019.

At least 10 more cities across the Philippines are drafting ordinances – laws that are specific to a particular sub-national jurisdiction – that will kickstart the creation of new infrastructure to support law enforcement and child protection efforts.

These frameworks include the establishment of local councils to combat online sex abuse of children and training of law enforcement officials, social workers and community leaders in detecting and suppressing online child abuse, including trauma-informed care techniques for frontline responders.

Angeles City is currently preparing its schools, hotels, motels, internet cafes, photo developers, computer repairers, banks and money remitters for a “city-wide crusade” against OSEC. Local councillor Jaycee Parker-Aguas said

“The biggest challenge we are facing with this crime is that it goes unreported. We focus more on prevention, raising awareness in our communities about the red flags, so that we don’t have cases, and so we don’t have children that we have to save.”

The latest expansion of the Philippine framework to counter online child sexual abuse coincides with an international awakening to the crime, which emerged over the past decade and was fuelled by lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has been campaigning for tech giants to take responsibility for crimes organised and paid for on their platforms. In August, the Philippine government declared ‘war’ on online child sexual abuse.

Atty. Samson Inocencio, Jr., National Director and Regional Vice President of IJM Program Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children said:

“There is a groundswell of support for this fight, but we must continue to spread deterrence of this crime. We now have the methodology to measure the prevalence of online sexual exploitation of children that previously was not available.”

IJM has worked against online child sex abuse and exploitation in the Philippines since 2016, assisting in the rescue of more than 1,000 children and the conviction of more than 150 traffickers.

IJM commends local governments for taking the lead to protect children and encourages more local legislators to draft ordinances to help end the online sexual exploitation of children.

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