Update on PHL progress vs cybersex trade sought

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Friday, January 17, 2014

JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima assured Friday that authorities are doing their best to stamp out the cybersex industry in light of the discovery of a pedophile ring that reportedly streamed live sexual abuse of Filipino children over the Internet.

She also asked members of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), which she co-chairs with Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, to give an update on the various steps and operations taken so far against child sex abuse.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which are under de Lima’s supervision, are among the agencies under the IACAT.

“This is not something we address only now. We have been doing this all along although intensified efforts from foreign authorities are really helpful,” de Lima said.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. echoed de Lima’s statement, saying the government has been committed to stop trafficking through inter-agency effort, legislation and other administrative measures.

A foreign news outlet reported that British police are working with Australian and US counterparts to dismantle the child pornography ring under the Operation Endeavor of the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency.

Fifteen minors aged between six and 15 were rescued while 29 got arrested including 11 Filipinos. Seventeen Britons were also collared, five of whom have been sentenced to jail.

Endeavor tracked down the ring after the discovery of obscene videos on a British man’s computer in 2012. He was sentenced to suffer eight-and-a-half years in prison.

The NCA said the use of webcams to stream live abuse, particularly from developing countries like the Philippines, is a “significant and emerging threat.”

"Extreme poverty, the increasing availability of high speed Internet and the existence of a vast and comparatively wealthy overseas customer base has led to organised crime groups exploiting children for financial gain," the British crime agency said.

De Lima said lack of resources stand in the way of ending cybersex crimes although there has been constant logistical support and yearly increase in the IACAT’s budget.

The DOJ also has an anti-cybercrime unit but it could not go full blast due to the Supreme Court (SC) stay order on the implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

"But with or without the ruling on the Cybercrime Act, the office has already been working on these offenders," she said.

The Philippines retained its Tier 2 Status, according to a report of the US State Department Global Trafficking in Persons last year.

This means that despite the steps taken in battling modern slavery, the Philippines still needs to intensify action in the prosecution and conviction of offenders.

The US recommended the conduct of immediate and rigorous investigations of complaints of trafficking complicity by government officials; ensure accountability for leaders that fail to address trafficking-related corruption within their areas of jurisdiction; and to continue to strengthen anti-trafficking training for police recruits, front-line officers, and police investigators.

As of Tuesday, IACAT records show the government has won 118 cases and 137 human traffickers have been punished since the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act took effect in 2003. Life imprisonment was meted out to offenders in most cases. (Sunnex)

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