Philippines

Bong Go files twin bills to combat increasing cases of child sexual abuse in the country

Photo from Senator Bong Go’s office

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go filed a measure to amend Republic Act No. 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act” which will enhance the country’s protective measures against child sexual abuse.

Senate Bill No. 1650 seeks to amend Section 5 (b) of the Anti-Child Abuse Law regarding the penalty for persons engaging in lascivious conduct or sexual activity with minors under twelve years of age. The proposed amendment will increase the penalty to reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua for any individual found violating the law under said provision.

Under the present law, lascivious acts against a minor below twelve years are penalized with reclusion temporal in its medium period whilst the same act committed against a child above twelve years but below eighteen years of age is penalized with reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua.

In other words, the penalty is lower despite the fact that the victim is younger. Go also cited a 2019 Supreme Court case, People v. Tulagan, which called for “corrective legislation” to address the incongruent penalties.

“Mariin po nating tinututulan ang pang-aabuso sa ating mga kabataan. Kaya naman po isinusulong ko ang panukalang ito sa Senado upang masiguro na protektado ang ating mga kabataan laban sa mga ganitong pang-aabuso,” Go said.

“Ang mga kabataan po ang pag-asa ng ating bayan. Gawin po natin ang lahat upang proteksyunan sila laban sa mga taong may masamang intensyon sa kanila,” he continued.

The United Nations estimates tens of thousands of children have fallen victim to the global child-abuse industry, now worth over US$ 1 billion. The Philippines, in particular, is the largest known source of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) cases according to a recent study conducted by the Washington-based International Justice Mission in partnership with the Philippine and United States governments.

The number of cases increased by 250% from 23,333 in 2014 to 81,723 in 2017. It is believed the widespread use of the English language, high poverty incidence rate and relatively easy internet access have enabled the crime to worsen in the country.

OSEC is predominantly a family-based crime. The average age of the victims is eleven years. The youngest documented victim is less than one year. Seventy four percent of the local cases were facilitated by someone within the child’s circle of trust, such as a family member, guardian or family friend.

The parents, if not traffickers themselves, sometimes get involved as they too share in the financial benefits obtained from the exploitation of the child. It is suggested that money, as opposed to sexual deviancy, is the primary motivator. An official of the U.S. State Department disclosed the number of OSEC cases in the Philippines is swiftly rising partly due to the economic downturn as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

The pedophiles are mostly in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. Many have either travelled or lived in the Philippines at some point in time. As a consequence, the Senator also filed another bill, SB No. 1649, to reduce the risk of such crimes occurring.

The Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act of 2019 aims to update the Philippines’ outdated immigration system. It provides a system of documentation and prescribes the procedure and requirements for the admission of immigrants. Section 77 of the bill cites moral grounds prohibiting the entry of pedophiles, sexual perverts and persons engaged in prostitution into the country.

It also denies entry to foreign nationals convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or suspected to be engaged in human trafficking.

“Nakikiusap po ako sa mga awtoridad at sa ating komunidad na magmanman at maging mapagmatyag sa mga illegal na activities na umaabuso o nag-eexploit sa ating mga kababayan lalo na sa mga kabataan, gaya ng mga nag-eengage sa child pornography at online sex crimes,” Go said.

“Kung may kilala po tayong gumagawa nito, magsumbong po tayo sa tamang awtoridad. Labanan po natin ito, palakasin po nating ang ating mga batas laban dito, hindi lang para sa kapakanan ng ating mga kabataan kundi para sa ating bansa,” he added.

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