Editorial: Flushing out child predators

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

CORDOVA Mayor Adelino Sitoy was reportedly “surprised” that his town’s cybersex industry attracts foreign media.

The mayor’s surprise “surprises” anyone who understands the far-reaching effects of the cyber-child porn industry.

Last Feb. 21, Sun.Star Cebu’s Kevin A. Lagunda reported that Katrin Kuntz of Der Spiegel interviewed Cordova officials about the extent of the town’s child pornography problems and its measures to address this.


Der Spiegel is a German weekly publication regarded by The Economist as “one of continental Europe’s most influential magazines,” notably for its investigative journalism. Kuntz said that she was interested to find out what can be done to protect children from pedophiles since Germany and the rest of Europe have the same problem as the Philippines.

Last Jan. 15, Angus Crawford of BBC News reported that British pedophiles paid cheaply to see children abused in the home-based cybersex dens of Barangay Ibabao, Cordova, regarded as the “epicenter” of the local trade. A worker of the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB) said the “easy money” earned from pedophiles that paid to watch children undress or “perform” sexually before webcams involves about 80 households in Ibabao, turning child exploitation into the local “cottage industry.”


The borderless nature of cyber-child pornography makes it a global issue, requiring global responses. Interviewed by BBC News, Fr. Shay Cullen of the Preda Foundation, which assists victims of abuse for the past four decades, said, “There’s a huge growing demand and there’s a growing supply.”

Cullen warned that Western pedophiles’ easy access to children in the East via cyberpornography may only be a “warm-up for actual sexual assault” of children in their home countries.

BBC News reported that Britain’s National Crime Agency is working with American, Australian and Philippine to target child abusers. According to a Terres des Hommes Netherlands exploratory study released in November 2013, Webcam Child Sex Tourism (WCST) is “most widespread” in the country. WCST was only discovered in 2011, when Philippine authorities successfully prosecuted their first case against a Swedish national and three Filipinos.

Part of Cordova’s anti-cyberporn program is a two-month-old ordinance requiring stricter monitoring of money transfer firms, which transmit remittances from Internet clients to cyberporn operators. When Terre des Hommes carried out a sting operation last January using a computer-generated 10-year-old Filipina named “Sweetie,” about 20,000 men contacted her, with 1,000 offering money for her webcam “performance”.

Among these 1,000 men were 254 from the US; 110 from the UK; and 103 from India, reported BBC News last Jan. 17.

“Vigilance” and “unity”

On Feb. 21, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman appealed to the public for “vigilance” and “unity” to fight child pornography and exploitation.

Culling from Preda’s work with child victims, which began in Olongapo City when its sex tourism was fed by a US military base and R&R tours, Cullen wrote in an article about looking for abused children and Typhoon Yolanda victims that stakeholders must be able to provide communities with “undercover surveillance and research,” as well as “community training” to empower citizens, specially the vulnerable, to report human trafficking and abuse. Preda’s hotline number +63 917 532 4453 receives text messages reporting abuse and responds immediately to these reports, wrote Cullen.

Cordova’s Save the Children Movement involves the church in educating the community about laws on trafficking, providing livelihood, and promoting “moral recovery”.

The last program may be the most challenging to achieve. The CLB told BBC News that, aside from poverty, a “breakdown in public morality” explains why in places like Ibabao, Cordova, parents would cannibalize their own children. They rationalize that there is no actual abuse in webcam porn. However, the CLB said that the clients instruct the children to “touch this” and “touch that”.

And from all over the globe, strangers send Filipino children sex toys to “play” with.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 24, 2014.


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