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Implementing rules of law vs online sexual abuse of children linked 

THE IMPLEMENTING rules and regulations (IRR) of a law that protects children against online sexual abuse and exploitation was signed Thursday, the Social Welfare department announced.

“The DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), as one of the signatories of the IRR, will remain vigilant in making sure that the provisions will be strictly implemented and never abused,” Social Welfare Secretary Rexlon T. Gatchalian said in his speech during the signing ceremony.

The Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Act lapsed into law on July 30 last year.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla, also a signatory to the IRR, told the same event that the Philippines remains a primary destination for online sexual abuse and exploitation of children, citing poverty and widespread internet access as factors.

“It is the responsibility of all, from the government to everyday citizens, to protect the innocence and well-being of our future: The Filipino children,” he said.

The OSEAC law will also establish the National Coordination Center against Online Sexual Abuse Against Children, which will be overseen by the country’s council against trafficking, the DSWD said in the statement.

The IRR also elaborates on the duties and responsibilities of the private sector such as internet service providers in preventing exploitation of children.

An online sexual offenders registry for foreign nationals and Filipinos will also be created under the law.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)  lauded the legislation, saying it would help ensure children will safer in cyberspace.

“UNICEF with government and its partners will also be supporting the strengthening of the child protection system that prevents and addresses violence in all settings,” it said in a statement.

Citing a study it conducted last year, UNICEF said about 20% of children aged 12-17 were prone to online sexual abuse and exploitation, with 23% of children who are victims not telling anyone of the harm they experienced.

In a statement, the National Privacy Commission backed the finalized guidelines for the law, saying the measure encourages multi-sectoral collaborations.

“This collaborative approach facilitated invaluable dialogue and insights, undoubtedly contributing to the IRR’s comprehensiveness and effectiveness,” it said.

Mama Fatima Singhateh, United Nations special rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, said in December that the Philippines lacked trained officials at the village level to monitor reports of child sexual abuse.

Last month , the country’s council against human trafficking said it would enhance its cooperation with partner government agencies to apprehend more human traffickers.

Mr. Remulla has said he would ask telecommunication companies to enforce filters to block malicious websites and payments possibly linked to child abuse.

Data from the Interior and Local Government department showed authorities conducted 227 operations against online sexual exploitation and convicted 67 people behind illegal websites from 2017 to July 2022.

The National Bureau of Investigation said last year that the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center had rescued 134 sexually exploited children and arrested 15 offenders from 51 operations since 2021.

“Likewise, the DSWD will continue to craft relevant plans, policies, and programs to address the evolving need for better protection, recovery, and reintegration of victim-survivors,” Mr. Gatchalian said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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