“This horrendous cybersex trade of our vulnerable kids has been going on for the longest time and authorities waitrf for an international outrage to boil over before now barking commands to crush the perpetrators.” – Gabriela Women’s Party
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Gabriela Women’s Party representatives pressed their colleagues in Congress anew to immediately tackle House Resolution 453 following reports of worsening child pornography in the Philippines.
On Thursday, Jan. 16, the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that the Philippines together with Cambodia and Thailand are among the top 10 countries identified by Virtual Global Task Force (VGTF) as producers of online child pornography. The VGTF is a network of international agencies against child pornography.
Not only are children being used in cybersex dens where they are being prostituted to foreigner-clients, they are also being used in pornographic materials such as videos, photos and online materials where children are being forced to perform sexual acts. These materials, according to the PNP, are being shown to customers in the US and Europe. Most of the children victims are between 10 to 14 years old, according to the PNP.
House Resolution 453 principally authored by Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Luzviminda Ilagan was filed in Nov. 2013. It directs the Committees on the Welfare of Children and Women and Gender Equality to conduct an inquiry on the virtual “Sweetie” and the glaring inability of the Philippine government to stop pedophilia and child pornography.
“Sweetie” is a 10 year old computer generated Filipino girl used by the Netherlands-based child rights organization Terre Des Hommes to track down child predators from different parts of the country. The shocking volume of 20,000 client engagements produced by the sting operation prompted Gabriela Women’s Party to launch the resolution on the occasion of the first National Day of Awareness Against Violence Against Women on Nov. 25, 2013.
“This horrendous cybersex trade of our vulnerable kids has been going for the longest time and authorities waited for an international outrage to boil over before now barking commands to crush the perpetrators,” Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus said in a statement sent to Bulatlat.com.
Salinlahi, an alliance of children’s organizations also expressed grave concern on the said report. “It is both saddening and enraging that our children still continue to fall prey to the evil that is sexual exploitation and pornography,” said Kharlo Manano, secretary general of Salinlahi.
According to Manano, the two reported cases involving minors in the crack down on a Cebu City cyber sex den catering to foreign clients, some based in the UK; and the local flesh trade in Antipolo City has only underscored the government’s utter lack of protection mechanisms against these forms of child abuse and violence.
“Why is it that the only intervention being done by the authorities happens after the fact? The rights of these children have already been violated and their lives and dignity, tarnished. They should have never been involved in such a gruesome act in the first place,” Manano added.
Ilagan also lambasted the government for failing to address gender violence despite the enactment of laws including the Anti-Child Pornography law and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. “These laws are obviously not enough as they are practically being negated by government policies that worsen unemployment and women and families’ lack of access to basic social services. Women and their families are practically left with no choice.” She said cybersex and cyberprostitution will be difficult to stop if poverty and joblessness continues to worsen.
Ilagan also cited reports of human trafficking among typhoon Yolanda survivors in Basey and Marabut in Samar province. “The urgency with which this issue must be addressed cannot be emphasized enough as a growing number of young women and girls become increasingly vulnerable to gender violence. The absence of livelihood opportunities, the government’s criminal neglect of typhoon and disaster victims evident in the slow and inefficient response to the relief and rehabilitation needs of disaster survivors make women and girls easy prey for traffickers, cybersex operators and pimps,” said Ilagan.
Manano reiterated that it is the state’s responsibility to ensure and protect children from all forms of abuse and exploitation and therefore should not put all the blame to parents who are allegedly giving consent to their children to be involved in such crimes.
“The authorities are hastily indicting the parents and guardians of the victims. But putting the blame on the parents of these children disregards the societal context that poverty and the lack of economic opportunities are the corroborating risk factors of this phenomenon. This continuing trend of child exploitation only shows that Pres. Aquino and his government lack the political will in resolving the root causes of this dilemma.”