SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go has called on authorities to look into the reported online sale of lewd photos and videos of some Filipino students as he urged law enforcement agencies to strengthen the government’s anti-cybercrime campaign.
“I am calling on concerned agencies to provide necessary interventions to put a stop to this. Alarming ito lalo na’t ang kalaswaan na ito ay dulot rin ng kahirapan,” Go said, emphasizing that “hindi rason ang kahirapan para ibenta ang kaluluwa.”
His pronouncements came after reports indicating that some students have been resorting to selling their obscene photos and videos online to support their needs amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Pwedeng makasuhan kung sino ‘yung kakuntsaba at pumapayag sa mga ganitong pagbebenta ng malalaswang mga larawan,” Go said during an ambush interview right after he personally led the distribution of assistance to market vendors in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on Tuesday, January 5.
Go also shared that President Rodrigo Duterte has been informed of this issue and is deeply concerned with the welfare of these children. The senator also said that the President plans to call on cybercrime units of various concerned agencies for a meeting to address this situation and strengthen safeguards to protect the youth.
“Plano po ipatawag ng Pangulo ang mga cybercrime units and experts from concerned agencies para mapag-usapan kung paano maitigil ito at maproteksyunan ang ating kabataan,” Go said.
Moreover, Go also called on the Council for the Welfare of Children to lay down measures to prevent child exploitation and also support them in dealing with the adverse socio-economic impacts of the ongoing health crisis.
“Tinatawag ko ang pansin ng CWC para alagaan ang kapakanan ng mga bata. Gabayan natin sila dahil hindi nila kailangan magbenta ng kaluluwa para lang sa pera. Nandito po ang gobyerno para tumulong sa inyo,” Go stressed.
CWC Executive Director Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy concurred with Go’s statement, but expressed difficulty to police the Internet for such acts. She, however, agreed that there is a need to encourage families to come forward and work with the government through CWC should they need assistance on such matters.
For their part, Cajayon-Uy said that they will validate first about those involved in the online selling of photos and videos. Once this is confirmed, the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography may be tapped to intervene on the issue.
The Senator urged students in distress to seek his help if they need support for their education rather than resorting to selling lewd photos and videos online. He guaranteed that the government and his office are willing to extend assistance to students who are struggling to support their needs.
“Alam mo, hindi niyo po kailangan na pumasok sa ganun. Nandito po ang gobyerno, lapitan niyo lang po ang aming opisina dahil handa kaming tumulong sa inyong pag-aaral, hindi na tayo kailangan pang pumasok sa ganun,” Go said.
Citing a recent study conducted by the Washington-based International Justice Mission which reported that the Philippines is the largest known source of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children cases, Go filed Senate Bill 1650 in July 2020 to amend Republic Act No. 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act” which will enhance the country’s protective measures against child sexual abuse.
“Nakikiusap po ako sa mga otoridad at sa ating komunidad na magmanman at maging mapagmatyag sa mga iligal na mga aktibidad na umaabuso o nag-eexploit sa ating mga kababayan lalo na sa mga kabataan, gaya ng mga nae-engage sa child pornography at online sex crimes,” Go previously said.
“Kung may kakilala po tayong gumagawa nito, magsumbong po tayo sa tamang otoridad. Labanan po natin ito, palakasin po natin ang ating mga batas laban dito. Protektahan natin ang mga bata dahil sa kanila nakasalalay ang kinabukasan ng ating bansa,” he added.
The Department of Justice has already ordered its attached agency, the National Bureau of Investigation, to conduct an investigation over the reported selling of obscene photos and videos. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra gave NBI officer-in-charge Eric Distor ten days to submit reports on the progress of the investigation.
In a statement, the Department of Education, meanwhile, expressed alarm over the rising incidents of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also gave its full cooperation to government agencies to put a stop to pornography among students.