Issue of February 21, 2021
     
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Safer Internet to protect Filipino children

Presidential Proclamation 417-2018 issued by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte declaring every 2nd Tuesday of February as “Safer Internet Day for Children Philippines” was issued to protect Filipino children against online abuse and exploitation.

The year 2020 was like no other. The Covid-19 pandemic triggered wide-ranging transformations in the digital environment, both in terms of opportunities and risks. It showed us first-hand that digital technologies are an excellent medium to enable the greatest number of citizens – and especially children and young people – to find information, communicate, socialize, learn and play, often in ways that are not possible to the same extent in their non-digital lives.

For many citizens, young and old, technology has provided a lifeline during the pandemic, offering a means to stay connected with family and friends, access services and provisions, and support their wellbeing and mental health.

Yet, with this realization that our societies are more digital than ever came a growing awareness that many online tools and services are often not designed with the best interests of children and young people in mind. This observation manifested itself concretely as a range of online issues and threats rose in prominence in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, as we collectively became increasingly dependent on digital means of communication. For example, the near overnight move to emergency remote teaching and learning for many presented challenges for learners, teachers and families alike, with schools and colleges scrabbling to address policy and infrastructure concerns.

Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and current concerns.Over the years, it has become a landmark event in the online safety calendar. Starting as an initiative of the EU SafeBorders project in 2004 and taken up by the Insafe Network as one of its earliest actions in 2005, Safer Internet Day has grown beyond its traditional geographic zone and is now celebrated in approximately 170 countries worldwide.

Issues pertaining to misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories – particularly with regards to public health matters – took centre stage. As we collectively spent an increased amount of time online, privacy concerns also gained more attention. Equally, economically motivated cybercrime (such as ransomware, phishing, and payment fraud) rose, along with predatory behaviors against children online and the volume and circulation of child sexual abuse material.

In the Philippines, we celebrated the Safer Internet Day last Feb. 9 spearheaded by the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (ICACP) by renewing its unwavering commitment to protect all Filipino children against all forms of violence, particularly online abuse and exploitation.

The Covid-19 pandemic as reported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children fired up an increase in Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) cases in the country, as “children and their families are forced to such activities because of lack of economic opportunities during the lockdown and the increased vulnerability of children due to their increased online activities.

According to the data, a 264.63percent increase of cyber tips report was recorded from March to June 2020 compared to the same period of 2019. The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLA) report showed an increase in suspicious transactions linked to OSAEC amounting to P113.1 million.With these challenges, the public and private sector must continue to be vigilant and persistent in mitigating the occurrence of OSAEC.

Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 under Section 20 mandated the creation of the IACACP to coordinate, monitor and oversee the implementation of the law. The Department of Social Welfare and Development serves as the ICACP lead. The core member agencies are the Department of justice, the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Science and Technology, Philippine National Police, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Information and Communications Technology Office, National Telecommunications Commission, Council for the Welfare of Children, Philippine Center for Transnational Crimes, Optical media Board, and the National Bureau of Investigation and three representatives from children’s non-government organizations nominated by ICACP member agencies for appointment by the President.

The key strategic areas for the implementation of RA 9775 by the ICACP is to achieve the goal of eradicating child pornography; enforcement, investigation, and prosecution; victims assistance and support; and monitoring and management information system and partnership and resource management.

The DOLE, DSWD, DOST, CHR, and NGO will compose the Committee on Victims Assistance and Support to effectively provide assistance and support to victims of child pornography and their families. The said committee will conduct baseline study on the effects of child pornography on victims, their families and their community; task to formulate policies and/or program standards specific to child pornography; to enhance the capacity of service providers and local social welfare offices in the delivery of mandatory services and support to victims, their families, and their communities; and to establish a referral system that will coordinate the immediate response to the needs of the victims and their families.

For the Cordillera, there will be a close partnership with the local government units, especially with the Local Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking and VAWC, local councils for the protection of children, and other local community-based coordinating mechanism, to increase awareness, prevention, and early detection of OSAEC cases.

The Regional Council Against Trafficking, Violence Against Women and Children and Child Pornography in the Cordillera will closely monitor the safety of children even inside their homes, even as it urged the public to be vigilant and immediately report to the authorities all forms of abuses against children.For more information, visit www.iacacp.gov.ph Philippine Inter-Agency CouncilAgainst Child Pornography@IACACPFacebook page.

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