(PNA file photo by Robert Oswald Alfiler)

MANILA – The ongoing National Awareness Week on the Prevention of Child Abuse and Exploitation should bring to light the persistent problems that victimize Filipino children.

In a news release on Tuesday, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian cited the report “Disrupting Harm in the Philippines” of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund that showed online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) among 20 percent of internet users aged 12 to 17 in 2021.

The study had 950 respondents.

“When scaled to the size of the population, it is revealed that up to two million were subjected to these harms,” Gatchalian said.

In the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report by the United States State Department, the Philippines retained its Tier 1 Status, or meeting just the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

The report identified persisting needs, such as additional personnel and training on handling digital evidence, and recommended increased support for programs providing specialized care for trafficking victims, including victims of OSAEC.

“Cracking down on child traffickers entails effective enforcement of laws that took effect last year,” Gatchalian said, citing the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022 (Republic Act No. 11862) and the Anti-OSAEC and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials Act (CSAEM or Republic Act No. 11930) which he both co-authored.

The Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act gives law enforcers additional tools to pursue human traffickers both online and offline.

Under the law, internet intermediaries such as social media networks and financial intermediaries will be liable for allowing the use of their platforms for trafficking.

The Anti-OSAEC and Anti-CSAEM Act also gives law enforcers additional tools for the surveillance and investigation of OSAEC cases.

It increases the responsibilities of social media platforms, electronic service providers, and financial intermediaries, among others, to block CSAEM materials and cooperate with law enforcers.

Tungkulin natin ipatupad ang mga batas upang matiyak ang kaligtasan ng ating mga kabataan mula sa iba’t ibang anyo ng trafficking. Tungkulin natin tulungan ang mga biktima na makabangon muli at magkaroon ng pag-asa (It is our duty to enforce laws to ensure the youth are protected against all forms of trafficking. It is likewise our duty to help victims recover and give them hope),“ Gatchalian said. (PNA)