Protect the children
The start of the year was marked by a horrendous report. In the isolated village of Ibabao in Cebu a child pornography ring was operating, with parents roping their own children into the sordid business. Inside their homes, parents were directing their children—and even their neighbors’—in sex acts recorded by webcam for sale on the Internet to foreign pedophiles. To keep the ring constantly running, the adults locked the children in. But a series of raids disrupted the operation; a number of adults were arrested and the children were rescued, aged 3, 9 and 11.
But the operation was hardly unique. Throughout the year, authorities conducted raid after raid in such other provinces as Cavite and Davao. At one point, the president of a school in Muntinlupa was arrested for harboring a group that sold child porn online.
Child porn is a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide. Online child abuse, as shown in the “cottage industries” in the provinces, is a hugely profitable enterprise. But “there is no interest in [viewing] child pornography in our culture,” Senior Supt. Gilbert Sosa, director of the Philippine National Police’s anticybercrime unit, said last January. “So it is mostly production [of child porn videos that is being done here].” And what may come as a shock to those born yesterday is the willingness of parents and guardians themselves to sell their own children for sure profit.
Authorities have been unequivocal in calling for an end to the business of child porn in the country. Sosa announced, also last January, that in the Philippines, cyberpornography was worse than the trade in illegal drugs: “It is now the No. 1 crime in our country. We have to act on this. We are the origin, the source,” he said, adding that Filipino child porn creators earn big money from pedophiles overseas, sometimes making as much as P4,500 per hour for videos streamed online.
Malacañang declared war on the online porn industry in the country, particularly child porn, that same month. “We don’t want to be identified as a haven [for pedophiles],” Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was quoted as saying.
Now the Department of Justice is adding pressure on the criminals by asking the telecommunications firms to block online child porn. “We’re coming up with a filtering software… [but] because of the volume (of child sex abuse content], it is not humanly possible to do it,” Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy, who leads the DOJ’s cybercrime office, told reporters. According to Sy, “it has to be something that’s automated, an available algorithm,” so that if a certain site banned worldwide is shown, that site should not be accessed.
So far, no telco is cooperating with the DOJ initiative, Sy said, adding that this was simply wrong, that the telcos could not claim to be powerless in this situation. “They cannot say, ‘Oh, we just provide the network, whatever happens in terms of content, we no longer have control,’” he said. “That’s not true… There’s no reason why you allow [child pornography] to pass through your system. It’s like you just provide a bulletin board and whatever is put there, you no longer have any say. That’s not right.” But he said he expected the telcos to soon comply with the DOJ request.
The public should add its voice to the call for the telcos to cooperate with the DOJ’s cybercrime office. The scourge of child porn needs urgent solutions, including multiagency efforts. After all, the Philippines is one of the 54 signatories to the 2012 initiative called the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse.
To protect the children, to stamp out this vicious crime that preys on the innocent with impunity and for which the Philippines has become notorious, it will take everyone working together—the government, telcos, civil society organizations, educators, parents and guardians. The swift arrest and guaranteed punishment of the perpetrators are imperative, as is the provision of means of livelihood in rural areas. As a critical step in the right direction, an education campaign must be mounted to rid men and women of the perverse rationalization that children are commodities they own and available for them to do with as they please.
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