In this 2014 file photo, some of the 31 suspects in an alleged internet porn operation arrested by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents cover themselves at the Cybercrime Division of the NBI in Manila. (Photo: AFP)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has joined efforts against online child sexual abuse by warning families to be vigilant and to limit children’s time on the internet.
The warning comes after a reported spike in the number of cases while the Philippines has been in lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Parents should be aware of the “venomous virus” that preys on the young amid the pandemic, the bishops said.
“These are the human traffickers and sexual offenders, the worst and venomous virus on earth, taking every opportunity to target our youth and even young children who are bored at home and have nothing to do but navigate the internet,” the bishops said in a statement.
Child sexual exploitation cases surged in the Philippines from March to May with a record 279,166 cases, the Justice Department has said.
On May 30, police arrested a 34-year-old woman in Manila’s Caloocan City for selling videos and photos of her naked children on the internet.
The unidentified woman allegedly uploaded naked videos and pictures of her two children aged 8 and 12 with their 4-year-old cousin on an adult website.
Investigators said the mother was selling the videos for 5,000 to 10,000 pesos (US$100-200) to mostly European pedophiles.
The person will usually request explicit pictures and footage of children. He will also ask for the child’s age, police inspector Aldrin Marcelo said.
Marcelo said parents or relatives engaged in this kind of abuse believe it is not harmful to their children as there is no physical contact between them and the predator.
“Many of them think that since there is no sexual contact, it is permissible to just take videos or pictures of them,” Marcelo told UCA News.
Authorities believe poverty is the main reason why parents are increasingly selling their children online as many have lost their jobs due to the economic impact caused by the pandemic.
“You will see many of those who do it [online sexual abuse] are families who live below the poverty line. Maybe they really have no choice but to do this to their children. They need money to eat,” social worker Amanda Grajo told UCA News.
Reports say online child sex abuse has tripled in the Philippines during the coronavirus pandemic as poor families have sought to make easy money.
Police say they have recently arrested 300 individuals for violating child protection laws such as the Anti-Child Pornography Act and the Anti-Child Abuse Act.
Bishop Ruperto Santos, chairman of the Commission for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, has compared the Church to a mother who speaks out and stands up for the vulnerable victims of online sexual exploitation.
“She [the Church] speaks to comfort, to console and to confront those who make them suffer. We will never end up victims but victors of the viruses of trafficking and online sexual exploitation,” the prelate said.