“Anti-OSAEC Law as an urgent need in the Philippines”: Sen. Hontiveros’ call to action during NGO Summit on online abuse of children
"The proposed anti-OSAEC law ensures that protocols when pursuing OSAEC cases are sensitive, careful and empathetic with the rights and welfare of the child," Sen. Risa Hontiveros stated during the End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) Summit, "Engaging Multi-Stakeholders on Safety of Children Online," which was attended by 469 participants via online streaming and in the project sites in Dasmariñas and Iligan last March 17.
NGOs such as Viva Denmark, Philippine Children’s Ministries Network, Inc. (PCMN), and the International Justice Mission (IJM) Philippines hosted the End OSEC Summit to hear information not only on the crafting of national policies and the discussion of panel members from the Senate of the Philippines, Ateneo Human Rights Center, (IJM) and Youth For Safety (Y4S) Youth Organization, but also on the results of a research highlighting the process of restoration and integration of survivors to their families. The Summit is part of the End OSEC project funded by the European Union.
Sen. Hontiveros, as the Summit’s Keynote Speaker, acknowledged the advances concerning the protection of children. She discussed the efforts of advocates in their support of measures to protect children. This includes SB 2209 that expands upon laws like the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 (RA 9775) and plugs gaps in the law by defining and penalizing online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) as a separate crime from those punished under current laws like the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Law (RA 7610) and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (RA 9208).
"We will work hard to ensure that the bill can be submitted to Malacañang for signing into law at the earliest time possible," Sen. Hontiveros added.
During the panel discussion, representatives from each agency gave a statement on the importance of active participation in the campaign to fight against OSAEC.
“...ending OSEC is a shared responsibility… In fact the road leading to the creation of the anti-OSAEC bill has already been a shared effort. A combined effort by multiple stakeholders across the political aisle. I’m fairly confident that this bill we’re introducing contains updated tools… to take into account evolving technologies because the internet is ever evolving, ever rapid and perpetrators have actually more tools now than they have had before,” Chief of Policy and Legislation of the Office of Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Atty. Jaye dela Cruz Bekema, stated.
Program Officer of Adhikain Para sa Karapatang Pambata (AKAP) of Ateneo Human Rights Center, Atty. Xamantha Santos, shared that it was high time for us to revisit penal laws and our existing policies, especially now that information and communications technology is advancing. There is also an increased risk in harms against children and with the issue of OSEC, it is imperative to include and highlight the need for a multi-sectoral approach.
“With strong global coordination among law enforcement agencies, a case that starts its investigation with a single perpetrator here in the Philippines can cause a chain reaction resulting in the arrest of multiple traffickers and customers abroad,” IJM’s Sr. Lead for Policy and Advocacy Investigations and Law Enforcement Development National Office, Atty. Noel R. Eballe, mentioned as he emphasized that the global crime in which a single trafficker here in the Philippines could be connected with multiple customers around the world and vice versa.
National President of the Youth For Safety (Y4S) Youth Organization, Mr. Art Nel Bencolado, noted that it is crucial for the children and youth to advocate and influence duty bearers with decision-making powers in creating a safe environment for children at the local and national levels. “Everyone can have a role and take part in advocating for policy change with the inclusive guarding of children in local ordinances as it is a public concern,” Mr. Bencolado added.
Commitment from NGOs fighting against OSAEC
During the Summit, Consortium leaders provided welcome messages to the participants indicating each organization's take on the fight against OSAEC and the importance of strengthened policies to safeguard children.
“It is important to take initiative now, and I am happy that this anti-OSEC movement is gaining momentum with its legislative initiative, which requires legislators, policy makers, CSOs and other stakeholders to work together… It is important to work on many other areas such as education, working with the police, justice system, working with LGUs and barangays, working with parent councils, and many other actors involved,” the Head of the Cooperation Section of the Delegation of the European Union in the Philippines, Mr. Christoph Wagner, stated the importance of working together with frontline workers in the anti-OSAEC campaign.
PCMN National Director, Ms. Fe A. Foronda stated, “If we work together, we win together- collaboration is the key. The work in OSEC should be a one-nation approach.” Ms. Foronda also shared her excitement to continue the journey with everyone toward a world where no child was ever exploited.
“I am excited for the day that no children will ever experience violence and abuse in any form,” IJM’s Regional Vice President, Global Program Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children, Atty. Samson Inocencio, Jr. stated. He highlighted IJM’s role to continue in working closely with Philippine Law Enforcement to hold criminals accountable for exploiting children.
Viva Denmark National Director, Ms. Grit Holm Hedehus mentioned that the pandemic has aggravated many of the risk factors connected to OSEC causing the number of reports to OSEC to increase dramatically. “…to me the success of the projects we have undertaken is noted in the way we work diligently together and utilize the specific capacities in each organization to achieve success and reach for new goals.” Ms. Hedehus added that there is still a lot of work to be done to combat OSEC but we would be stronger when we combine our resources and strive to achieve the same goals.###
ABOUT THE END OSEC PROJECT
The Consortium activities are implemented through a project called End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (End OSEC) funded by the European Union in the Philippines. The End OSEC project is implemented in Dasmarinas City and Iligan City by the End OSEC Consortium, consisting of Viva Denmark, Philippine Children’s Ministries Network, Inc. (PCMN), and International Justice Mission (IJM) Philippines.
The project aims to enable the Philippine child protection system to protect children from Online Sexual Exploitation of Children and improve access to justice for its survivors. Specifically, to eliminate existing barriers to delivery of effective prevention, rescue, and restoration services to children-at-risk or victims of OSEC.
The project has three strategic interventions to tap different sectors of the community from (1) prevention which is to increase the awareness of key stakeholders and advocate for the enabling of laws, ordinances and policies for the protection of children against OSEC. The second component is rescue, which is to support rescue operations in the target areas of the project and capacitate key justice operators on skills and knowledge that will help them in engaging with children-survivors. And the third component is restoration which is to provide financial support to the foster care intervention of partner shelters and centers, and to train aftercare stakeholders for functionality of shelters and centers.