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Asap!

/ 12:30 AM August 24, 2014

Despite the fact that Filipinos traditionally highly treasure children in their midst, sexual abuse and exploitation of children tragically remain common in Philippine society. Adding to this poignant irony is that even as the clamor for greater vigilance against child abuse is spreading worldwide, incidents of rape and murder of children in both urban and rural settings in our country continue to be reported with seeming regularity, many of them perpetrated by those who are supposed to care for them.

One of the most chilling perhaps was the rape-slay of 11-month-old Geraline Cortes in San Juan City; the infant’s violated body was left under a parked passenger jeepney. In another incident, at an evacuation camp in Zamboanga City, a 6-year-old girl was raped by her own grandfather. Last February, a 14-year-old girl was found dismembered in North Cotabato. The horrific killings and rapes are simply startling to fathom as handiworks of human beings.

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But it gets even worse. Some are making money from this horror. The production of porn videos, featuring Filipino children (male and female), being offered to pedophiles online by their own parents no less, have become a profitable cottage industry. Earlier this month, a mother was arrested in Taguig City by the National Bureau of Investigation  for running a cybersex den and for using her own 10-year-old daughter in the trade. “They do not want me. My clients want young girls so I asked my daughter to do the show,” the mother said, claiming she needed to run the illicit business to pay the bills. In March, police arrested two women in Davao City for forcing their seven children—one as young as two years old—to perform sexual acts transmitted via the Internet for foreign clients. It turns the stomach to hear one investigating officer’s account about the women’s staple American client: “Sometimes he’d call them one by one. Sometimes, he’d call five of them at the same time. The children would stand in a corner, stark naked, waiting for who’s next.”

Even more alarming, online video streaming of child pornography has been tracked in 31 of our country’s 81 provinces, with a BBC Special Report counting between 60,000 and 100,000 Filipino children-victims thus far.

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This outrage has no place in a civilized, human community. Society can’t sit back and just watch with cold indifference as the list of victims grows longer. We therefore strongly support Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s bill seeking to prevent sexual abuse of children or at least minimize their vulnerability to the crime. Santiago would have the children, from Kindergarten to Grade 8, armed with the information they need to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation. “The incidence of child sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation and child abduction can be reduced by raising awareness among young children of common dangers and warning signs, empowering children to better protect themselves from sexual predators, and teaching children how to obtain any necessary assistance or services,” Santiago stated in her bill’s explanatory note.

This kind of preventive, classroom-based measure is not exactly new. Similar measures have taken hold in the United States.

After being raped by a neighbor and abused by a family member and threatened with harm if she squeaked, Illinois girl Erin Merryn chose to remain silent about her ordeal. But later finding courage to speak out, Merryn helped push a law that has been named after her—“Erin Merryn’s Law”—which requires sexual abuse awareness for students K-to-12 in her home state, an act replicated in 18 other states. New York State passed the law in April, with state Sen. David Valesky speaking strongly about the subject. “As a society, we must do whatever we can to prevent sexual abuse of children,” Valesky said. “Erin’s Law will require schools to add to existing curricula and provide children with age-appropriate information about ways to get help. By giving children a means to feel safe so they can speak up, we can get them out of horrible situations as well as catch and punish their abusers.”

By “raising awareness among young children of common dangers and warning signs” Santiago’s bill, to be sure, once enacted into law, can reduce child abuse, exploitation and abduction here. In a country where many are loath to discuss any aspect of sex in classrooms, Santiago’s bill is bound to raise a lot of eyebrows. But unless there is another way, the bill should become law, Asap!

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TAGS: children, crime, Editorial, internet, online, opinion, Rape
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