By Darryl John Esguerra

DISTURBING CRIME. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (right) convenes a sectoral meeting in Malacañang on Wednesday (April 24, 2024). Disturbed by the prevalence of the crime in the country, the President directed government agencies to ramp up efforts against online child sexual abuse. (Bongbong Marcos’ Facebook)

MANILA – “Disturbed” by the prevalence of online sexual abuse of children, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has ordered government agencies to ramp up efforts against offenders and abusers of children.

In a press conference in Malacañang on Thursday, Margarita Magsaysay, Executive Director of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Center for Anti-Online Child Sexual Abuse, said Marcos directed concerned government agencies to consolidate their efforts against online sexual abuse or exploitation of children (OSAEC) and child sexual abuse or exploitation materials (CSAEM).

OSAEC uses information and communications technology as a means to abuse and exploit children sexually, while CSAEM refers to real acts of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child as a sexual object.

Magsaysay said the President issued the directives during a sectoral meeting in Malacañang on Wednesday.

“The President noted that we are doing a lot of initiatives but he wants us to consolidate our efforts and focus more on each agency’s expertise,” she said.

The DOJ, she said, was tasked to zero in on ensuring prosecution, while the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies were directed to crack down on perpetrators.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government was tasked to encourage local governments to pass ordinances that will help increase the reporting and monitoring of cases at the grassroots level, Magsaysay said.

For the Department of Information and Communication Technology, the President called for strengthened collaboration with the private sector, particularly with social media and telecom companies, to aid law enforcers in hunting down perpetrators.

‘Family-based, lucrative’ crime

DOJ spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano, reported that the average age of OSAEC victims in the country is 11 years old, with less than one year old being the youngest.

“In fact, earlier, the youngest victim was about three months old, which is very alarming. It’s something that is unthinkable for us. But, apparently, it happens and all we have to do really is spread the awareness, spread the information that these things are not really normal,” he said during the same press briefing.

Clavano added that 41 percent of the victims were “facilitated” by their biological parents, while 42 percent were facilitated by other relatives, and that “without intervention, the abuse usually lasts for two years.”

“They target the vulnerable. They are the children who are in (the) poorer side of (the) country, who are in the rural areas because they are easy targets because OSAEC is (a) financially lucrative activity, so kung makagat na ‘yung mga victims mga (they accept) PHP300, PHP200 for just showing CSAEM, showing nude pictures,” Magsaysay added.

‘Poverty not an excuse to hurt kids’

The officials noted that poverty and the promise of “easy income” are among the biggest drivers of OSAEC and CSAEM in the country.

However, for the President, poverty is no excuse to hurt children or do this alarming crime.

“President Marcos was very, very alarmed and very, very disturbed at gusto niya ‘tong tutukan ng lahat ng ahensiya (and he wants this to be the focus of all agencies) and whole-of-society, and even the private sector. Dahil sabi niya, ‘Wala sa kultura natin ito. Hindi ‘to gawa ng Pilipino’ (‘This is not in our culture. This is not Filipino’),” said Malacañang press briefer Daphne Osmeña-Paez, who was also present in the meeting.

“The President did say yesterday that poverty is not an excuse to hurt children at nanawagan siya sa mga pamilya, bantayan ang mga bata dahil wala talagang, for him, talagang walang crime na mas [malala] than this (and he called on families to watch over their children because for him, no crime is more severe than this),” she added. (PNA)