By Darryl John Esguerra

HOLISTIC APPROACH. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. convenes in Malacañang a sectoral meeting on preventing and combating the rampant online sexual abuse or exploitation of children (OSAEC) and child sexual abuse or exploitation materials (CSAEM) in the Philippines on Tuesday (June 4, 2024). During the meeting, Marcos ordered government agencies to ensure the protection of children and the prosecution of their abusers. (Photo from the Presidential Communications Office)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is calling on the implementation of a comprehensive and holistic strategy aimed at preventing and combating online sexual abuse or exploitation of children (OSAEC) and child sexual abuse or exploitation materials (CSAEM) in the Philippines.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos said Marcos referred to OSAEC and CSAEM as the “worst of all crimes” against children, during a sectoral meeting in Malacañang on Tuesday.

“Kaya ang nangyaring approach, hindi lamang po pulis ang gagalaw dito. Ito’y inter-agency, ito’y pinagsama-samang lakas ng gobyerno (So the approach is, the police will not be the only one acting on this. It will be an inter-agency concern. The full force of the government will act here),” Abalos said during a Palace press briefing on Wednesday.

National Coordination Center Against OSAEC and CSAEM (NCC-OSAEC-CSAEM) Executive Director Margarita Magsaysay said they presented to the President the action plan covering six key pillars in the fight against online child sexual abuse.

This includes improving the referral pathways and mechanisms; capacity building; communications; aftercare services; private sector engagement; and data harmonization.

“With this action plan, we strongly believe that eventually, we would be able to protect, heal, and reintegrate the child into the mainstream society,” Magsaysay said.

She emphasized the importance of enhancing referral pathways and mechanisms by revising and establishing policies to coordinate efforts across schools and local government units.

Another step the government is looking at is the creation of a centralized repository for OSAEC-related reports and information to facilitate a more cohesive approach to tracking and responding to OSAEC incidents.

The NCC, according to Magsaysay, is also planning to partner with businesses and media, including broadcast stations, to strengthen anti-OSAEC campaigns and raise awareness through dedicated media segments.

To ensure comprehensive care for child victims, a dedicated office within the Department of Social Welfare and Development will provide support to help them heal and reintegrate into society.

Department of Justice Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano, meanwhile, said the action plan and a draft executive order for its operationalization were given to Marcos for his study and approval.

“Klaro po ang naging direksyon ni Presidente. Ang sa kanya, protect the child and prosecute the perpetrators (The directive of the President is clear. For him, protect the child and prosecute the perpetrators),” Clavano said.

In the same press briefing, Abalos also said that OSAEC cases should never be settled at the barangay level.

He warned that local officials could be held liable if proven that they were behind the settlement of these cases.

“Hindi puwede i-settle ito, I will make sure makukulong din kayo (Do not settle these cases. I will make sure you will also go to jail),” Abalos said. (PNA)