Legarda Calls for Effective, Sustained Law Enforcement to End Online Sex Exploitation of Children

March 14, 2018

Senator Loren Legarda today stressed the importance of effective and sustained law enforcement in reducing cases of trafficking of children for sexual exploitation.

Legarda, author of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and its expanded version, made the statement during her privilege speech on ending online sexual exploitation of children.

“Trafficking of children for sexual exploitation, whether done online or on the street or in bars, is a business even if it is against the law. However, if criminals know that laws are routinely enforced and that they will go to jail, they will get out of the business of selling children because it will not be worth it anymore,” she said.

In her privilege speech, Legarda narrated stories of children who were sexually abused in livestream videos for paying customers.

Online sexual exploitation of children or OSEC is the heinous act of livestreaming or broadcasting the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children via the internet through a webcam, or any other device, for the satisfaction of another, usually a pedophile from abroad, who directs and purchases the livestreamed online sexual abuse of children.

In rescue missions conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), supported by the International Justice Mission—a non-profit organization that partners with our Philippine law enforcement agencies in rescuing victims, restoring them, and securing justice for these sexually exploited children—more than 273 victims have been rescued in 77 operations with over 87% of those rescued victims under the age of 18. The average age of the rescued victim is 12 years old and victims below 12 years of age make up more than half, or 52%, of all victims rescued in OSEC.

Legarda said that the IJM noted a decrease in the prevalence of OSEC after law enforcement authorities relentlessly enforced anti-trafficking laws, particularly in Metro Cebu (79% decrease in 2010), Metro Manila (75% decrease in 2016), and Angeles City (86% decrease in 2016).

Legarda said that the Philippines has enough laws and has national anti-trafficking units in place that are mandated to specifically combat trafficking and OSEC, namely, the PNP Women and Children Protection Center and the NBI Anti-Human Trafficking Division. It also has the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking or IACAT that coordinates all the efforts to enforce the country’s trafficking laws.

“The Philippines is taking the lead in combatting trafficking in Southeast Asia being the only Southeast Asian country to achieve Tier 1 ranking in the Trafficking in Persons Report of the US Department of State. But, we must not, and cannot, allow this to lull us into complacency. We must all rise to the challenge of ensuring that this deplorable crime will finally be eradicated. As lawmakers, with our power of the purse, we can ensure that our laws are enforced by making sure that the agencies mandated to enforce these laws have enough resources to do their jobs,” said Legarda.

In the national budget for 2018, Legarda ensured that the PNP Women and Children’s Protection Center (WCPC) get an increase in its budget for additional training and purchase of equipment which will lead to more children being rescued, more criminals being arrested, and stopping this horrific crime in its track.

“However, being a transnational crime, ending OSEC requires a concerted effort from all nations. While the Philippines can do all it can to address this, a holistic solution requires that developed countries, from which the demand for this type of exploitation usually originates, must also do their part. This calls for amending the lenient sentences that their laws mete upon those who prey on Filipino children,” the Senator stressed.

“The fight against online sexual exploitation of children should not end with us. While we are sending a strong message to the rest of the world that we refuse to allow our children to be exploited for anyone’s gain, the rest of the world must also stand with us. Together, we must give our children a chance to wake up from the nightmare of abuse and live free,” Legarda concluded.