Instances of child abuse saw an increase during the COVID-19 lockdown in the Philippines, with poverty-ridden families resorting to peddling minors to pedophiles online just to get cash for food and other necessities. In a previous report from the Associated Press, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses involved in sexual exploitation of children have increased by 250% from 2014 to 2017, and continue to do so during the pandemic.
In the recent weeks, disturbing groups which are reminiscent of the 2017 “Pastor” organizations are cropping up on Facebook. This time, however, they feature child pornography. With names such as “Batang Masarap Spotted” (“Delicious Child Spotted”) and “Samahan ng Mga Mahilig sa Bata” (“A Group of People Who Enjoy Children”), these circles share and sell photos of child abuse within the said social media platform and via messaging app Telegram.
Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality Risa Hontiveros had written the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the matter. In a letter dated May 18, 2020, she said, “I have been tipped off by child’s rights advocates that cases of child pornography have drastically spiked during the ECQ and MECQ—perhaps owing to greater demand by perpetrators quarantined in their homes, as well as greater supply because of deepening desperation and poverty… I trust that the protection of children in vulnerable situations is of the highest priority.”
On May 20, the Senator, together with International Justice Mission Philippines’ Atty. Rey Lico, Child Rights Networks’ Nitz Dalde, and actress Liza Soberano did a webinar entitled “Not For Sale: Protecting our Children From Online Sexual Exploitation,” with the goal of informing the public of the current situation of vulnerable children in the country.
“Bilang isang magulang, isang ina, nakakagambala ang mga reports na ito. Hindi ko lubos maisip ano ang magagawa ko kung nangyari ito sa sarili kong anak (As a parent, a mother, I am distressed by these reports. I can’t think of what I would do if this happened to my own child),” said Senator Hontiveros in her opening statement.
You can watch the full webinar here:
If you witness instances of abuse both online and offline, report them to these groups: