Sen. Grace Poe is renewing her call for a Senate investigation into the proliferation of child pornography and sexual exploitation in the country which she described as "disturbing" that is fast becoming a "pervasive and extensive problem."
As the nation commemorates the National Children's Month, Poe delivered a privilege speech on Tuesday, Nov. 21, pushing for an investigation that will focus on "putting an end to this social epidemic."
"We need to show our countrymen and women, as well as the rest of the world, that a Filipino child is not for sale," said the senator in light of reports that eight in 10 victims rescued from online sexual rings are minors, with some as young as two months old.
Poe cited "Sex Trade in the Digital Age" by Plan International indicating that children are not only being put up for sale on websites, but also being engaged through social media sites such as Facebook, dating apps like Tinder and Grindr, messaging apps such as Viber and Whatsapp, and e-commerce platforms like Craigslist.
"This makes cyberspace an increasingly dangerous place for children and young people as it is now being used to facilitate their exploitation... Sex offenders are not only able to contact children online but also the abuse itself can happen via livestreaming. In effect, accessing technology has significantly increased the risk of children and youth being sexually exploited. At the same time, it has also made detection, prevention, and response an all the more complex matter, as physical and geographic boundaries are torn down," Poe said.
The senator also mentioned about the harrowing details of a woman in Leyte province who was arrested for allegedly abusing nine children, including her eight-year-old daughter. The woman asked for Php1,500 from her online clients in exchange for a "show," even telling online customers that she could sexually abuse children of any age, and that the children could do whatever sex act the customer wanted "until the children cried in pain."
According to Poe, the woman's actions ran counter to a common concept that a child's first line of defense against abuse and exploitation is his or her family, saying it was "so disheartening to receive reports that family members are not only standing idly by, allowing their children to be subjected to sexual exploitation."
"I thus urge the Senate to conduct an investigation on the proliferation of pornography involving children in the country amid measures already in place to punish perpetrators and criminalize unlawful acts. The dignity of a child cannot be bought; it must never be compromised," the senator added.
Poe earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 237 that aims to push for the investigation toward crafting remedial measures, amending existing laws and capacitating implementing agencies to make them more responsive in deterring and penalizing child pornography and prostitution, as the United Nations indicated that cases of livestreaming criminal cases in the Philippines are continuously rising.
She noted, for instance, that the country ranks fourth among nations with the most number of prostituted children.
"We have become one of the top 10 countries producing child pornographic materials and we are included in the top five countries where the persons being trafficked are children. Evidently, the commercial sexual exploitation of Filipino children has become a social epidemic in the Philippines," said Poe.
In a related development, Poe also pitched for the immediate approval of her twin nutrition measures--Senate Bill (SB) 160 seeking to provide institutionalize the government's feeding program for malnourished public school students and SB 161 or the proposed First 1,000 Days Act that ensures the nutritional well-being of pregnant mothers and young children.
Poe said it is important to pass these measures to effectively address malnutrition among children in the country and to promote the well-being not only of children but also pregnant mothers.
Source: Senate of the Philippines