There is a silent emergency. The Philippines is the global epicenter of online sexual exploitation of children. Images and videos of naked, sexualized, and abused Filipino children are being uploaded, shared, and sold online. The number of victims continues to increase. 

Last February 11, 2020, the Child Rights Network–represented by Mr. Romeo Dongeto, Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, Mr. Niño Lasin, Child Protection Officer from UNICEF Philippines, Ms. Isabelle Ereñeta, Program Director from ChildFund Philippines, and Ms. Camille Madiz, Project Officer from Plan International–led the advocacy to end online sexual exploitation of children and #ShutDownOSEC.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, delivered the keynote message. She spoke about the changing landscape of child abuse and her commitment to #ShutDownOSEC.

“Abuse is no longer confined to one place. The internet has changed that … I stand with you as a legislator and as a mother in protecting our most innocent now. Our children now are our citizens of tomorrow.

She also revealed the current measures she is doing with regards to child protection, “I filed for a bill this 18th Congress calling for the raise of sexual consent from 12 to 18 years old, and to partner this measure, I’m planning to file an anti-trafficking bill in collaboration with the Child Rights Network, that also includes issues that address OSEC … “I’m with you in nurturing the foundation of our nation and safeguarding the ones who will always need our protection.”

Congresswoman Yedda Romualdez, the Chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on the Welfare of Children, also shared her commitment and current efforts to #ShutDownOSEC, “My commitment is to ensure online safety for all of our children. In the coming weeks, the House Committee on the Welfare of Children will be deliberating on the proposed Safer Internet bills … We will make sure that internet platforms will be forced to remove illegal, harmful, inappropriate content, and prioritize the protection of users, especially children, young people, and vulnerable adults.”

In solidarity with them were representatives from the Executive branch of government–PBGen. Alessandro Abella, Chief of the Women and Child Protection Center of the Philippine National Police, Atty. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Undersecretary of the Department of Justice, and Datu Mussolini Lidasan, Parliament Member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

 

“The PNP greatly supports #ShutDownOSEC. On our [end], we are continuously conducting capacity-building activities and maintaining collaboration with our partner government agencies,” according Chief Abella.

 

 

Highlighting the importance of collaboration, Atty. Aglipay-Villar manifested that, “The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACACT) have all agreed to work closely together to combat child trafficking, most especially OSEC.”

She continues by saying that ending OSEC is a shared responsibility, “The government alone cannot end this scourge. We will need the help of everyone to find a sustainable solution to this problem that affects every nation in the planet.”

 

Datu Lidasan also expressed the support of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. He mentions that the Bangsamoro Organic Law “should take into consideration the interests of children, as well as, promote their rights.”

 

 

Representatives from multiple sectors—Ms. Snow White Smelser, Safety Policy Manager of Facebook Philippines, Mr. Bong Macalalad from Break the Silence National Network, Mr. Miguel Bermundo, Head of Citizenship and Advocacy Marketing—also proclaimed their messages of solidarity. 

 

“We can work together to keep each other safe online … It takes a village, a multisectoral, multidisciplinary, multicultural, multilingual, multinational and multi-aged global village to help our children thrive,” Ms. Smelser said.

 

 

Both Mr. Macalalad and Mr. Bermundo echoed this call of a multidisciplinary approach. “Today, we wish to assure you of our burning and continued support to rally our own network and call on Congress and every sector to #ShutDownOSEC once and for all. We are with you on this journey,” said Mr. Macalalad, while, Mr. Bermundo “invite[d] stakeholders here in the room, from local and private, to find ways with us [in Globe] to make full use of our network backbone and to maximize what we have to make sure we amplify the communication of this and for us to win in this campaign.”

 

UNICEF Philippines’ National Goodwill Ambassador, Ms. Daphne Oseña-Paez expressed that she believes that “each of us has a role to play in shutting down these perpetrators and protecting our children,” and affirmed that she is “in solidarity with UNICEF and the entire CRN, and with each and everyone.”

 

 

 

Ms. Mariz Peñarodonda, our Child Representative, articulated the perspective of children on the issue of OSEC. “Nagdadala po ito ng takot saaming kabataan kahit sa mga hindi pa po nakakaranas, natatakot po kami na may tendency po na baka isa po kami sa makaranas nito pagdaan ng panahon.” ([OSEC] brings fear to us children, even to those who have not yet experienced it. We fear that there is a tendency for anyone of us to experience this in the future.)

She asked the question, “Paano po kami magiging pag-asa sa mga susunod na taon kung ang kinabukasan po namin unting-unti nawawasak o nasisira dahil sa takot o pangamba?” (How can we be the hope [of the country] in the succeeding years if our futures are being slowly destroyed or damaged because of fear?) 

She calls everyone to action, “Bilang isang bansa po, dapat magtulong-tulong tayo para ma-shutdown yung OSEC.” (As one nation, we should all work together to #ShutDownOSEC.)

The guests—composed of representatives from various government agencies, civil society organizations, the private sector, and Philippine embassies, including H.E. Harald Fries, Swedish Ambassador to the Philippines, Dr. Roland Schissau, Deputy Head of Mission Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Manila, and Ms. Inge Stokkel, First Secretary Governance / Humanitarian and DRR and Ms. Ria Go Tian, Senior Program Officer from the Australian Embassy in the Philippines—joined the speakers on the stage to #ShutDownOSEC.

Online sexual exploitation of children or OSEC is the use of information and communication technology or the Internet to sexually abuse or exploit children for the consumption of online predators.

CRN’s campaign, #ShutDownOSEC aims to create a more proactive community that will: 

  1. LEARN. Learn about OSEC. Visit our website at childrightsnetwork.ph/ShutDownOSEC. Share our campaign materials to your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
  2. SIGN. Sign our Change.Org petion. Call on our lawmakers to start a Congressional oversight of laws so we can protect our children from online sexual predators.
  3. REPORT. Report suspected cases of OSEC. Call 1343, Bantay Bata 163, or the PNP Aleng Pulis Hotline (+63 919 777 7377).