DOJ orders probe on students' alleged 'online sex sale' to finance distance learning

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 4) - The Department of Justice has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the alleged sale of sensual photos and videos by students so they can afford their online classes.

Department Order No. 001, which was released on Monday, also tasks the NBI to file appropriate charges against persons involved in the sexual exploitation of students.

The order comes after Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday urged the DOJ and the Philippine National Police to look into the reported "Christmas Sale" of sensual materials by students to finance their expenses for distance learning.

Citing a report from a news portal on the student sector, Gatchalian said students use what they earn to buy gadgets for their siblings and pay for internet bills. He added that students sell a "Christmas bundle" or a set of their photos and videos for as low as P150 or $3.

From March 1 to May 24 last year, there were more than 279,000 cases of online sexual exploitation of children in Metro Manila. This is a 264% spike from the 76,561 cases recorded from the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education enjoined both private and public elementary and secondary schools to establish and strengthen their Child Protection Committees.

The DepEd added it has also initiated a Child Protection Unit in the main office with counterparts in regional offices and school division offices. The initiative is already under review by Education Secretary Leonor Briones.

"Likewise, we have implemented flexible distance learning and academic ease measures to ensure education will not be costly for our parents and learners," the DepEd said in a statement. "We are continuously reminding our direct stakeholders that gadgets or internet connections are not requirements for distance learning."

The DOJ order also directs NBI Officer-in-Charge Eric Distor to submit reports on the progress of the investigation to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra within ten days and periodically thereafter.