by Emily Manuel
Contributor, Eagle News
(Eagle News) — One in two Filipino children is a victim of online violence, according to the National Baseline Survey on Violence Against Children. The Philippines also remains in the top ten of countries globally on incidence of violence against children.
Poverty, accessible internet and smart phones, ease in speaking English, prevailing social norms, and the involvement of children’s own families as crime facilitators are some of the drivers of online sexual exploitation against children (OSEC).
To address this concern, the Australian embassy in the Philippines initiated the SaferKidsPH program, a six-year, AUD 8 million (Php 298 million) grant to the Australian Federal Police, and a consortium of UNICEF Philippines, The Asia Foundation, and Save the Children Philippines.
SaferKidsPH will increase public awareness of the risks of OSEC, strengthen investigation and prosecution of OSEC cases, and improve service delivery for OSEC prevention in areas commonly targeted.
The program will deepen the collaboration with Philippine government agencies and institutions involved in addressing OSEC. It will also engage civil society, communities and schools, and the private sector to support sustainable solutions to OSEC.
– Australian commitment –
In what he describes as “modern-day human trafficking of children,” Australian Ambassador Steven James Robinson shared that in 2017, the Department of Justice received 45,645 tip-offs of sexual images of Filipino children from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This figure ballooned to 600,000 in 2018.
Sadly, he says, “Australian nationals are among the perpetrators.” Though the Australian government has enacted laws to prevent those convicted from traveling to the Philippines, these same perpetrators are now engaged in “real-time, online child sexual abuse.”
Addressing this rising incidence continues to be a priority of the Australian government, he adds. “The SaferKidsPH demonstrates Australia’s commitment to counter all forms of child exploitation across the region and ensure a safer online environment for every Filipino child.”
– Strengthening child protection systems –
Attorney Albert Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines, explains that strengthening child protection systems is a key strategy to ensure the reduction of OSEC cases in the Philippines. Save the Children believes in collaborating with local government units and civil society to protect children against this form of abuse.
According to Julia Rees, UNICEF, “Filipino children are internet savvy but lack proper guidance.” She says that proper guidance on the use of technology will prevent them from being victimized.