Reports on alleged online sexual exploitation of children up three-fold in 2020 – anti-trafficking council

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The number of online tips about alleged activities involving online sexual exploitation of children or OSEC rose to 1.2 million in 2020, said the country’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 20) — The number of online tips about alleged activities involving online sexual exploitation of children or OSEC rose to 1.2 million in 2020, said the country’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.

This is three times the 400,000 reports received in 2019, the council said.

In a meeting with the House of Representatives’ Committee on the Welfare of Children Thursday, Department of Justice Assistant State Prosecutor Yvette Coronel clarified these numbers reflect tips or reports given to the agency, and not actual cases.

“The cyber tipline reports yielded only nine cases referred for investigation,” said Coronel.

No explanation was given to lawmakers about why only a small number of cases were referred, but Coronel said reports are “triaged and assessed” for authorities’ action.

The Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center or PICACC and the NBI’s Anti-Human Trafficking Division also saw increases in their data.

PICACC reported 58 operations in 2020 compared to 36 in 2019. During these operations, 35 people were arrested, while 172 were rescued.

The NBI-AHTAD also reported 14 operations in 2020 – much higher than the previous year. In their data, eight were arrested, while 19 were rescued, up from two operations, two arrests and four rescues in 2019.

Areas identified as hotspots for the online sexual exploitation of children include Metro Manila, Zambales, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Cavite, Batangas, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Leyte, Bohol, Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Davao del Sur, and Lanao del Norte, according to data provided by the International Justice Mission.

Coronel said these crimes happen because of two key factors: the non-fulfillment of responsibilities by internet providers set by the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, as well as limitations encountered by law enforcers in conducting surveillance.

Under RA 9775, internet service providers, upon the request of proper authorities, shall “furnish the particulars of users who gained or attempted to gain access to an internet address which contains any form of child pornography,” as well as to install available technology to block access and transmission of child porn.

Coronel also said they are looking at various approaches to combat the threat, such as increased use of online portals for reporting child sexual exploitation and the establishment of protocols in handling cases as well as victims and survivors.

The IACAT defines online sexual exploitation of children as either acts, means, or purposes by which minors are subject to sexual activities published or transmitted online for a third party.

Solons are set to hold further meetings on proposals to investigate online sexual exploitation of children at a later date.