Press Release
October 21, 2013

Privilege Speech of Senator Legarda on Child Cyber Pornography
21 October 2013

More than a month ago, police authorities in Cebu carried out a complex sting operation to rescue victims of child labor. It was not the typical kind of labor one would think of, nor were the perpetrators any ordinary.

The victims: five sisters, but only three were rescued--ages 2, 9 and 11.

The kind of work they were made to do: endure the sexual abuse being done against them in exchange for the money their family will earn.

The perpetrators: the children's own mother and father.

Earlier this year, the case was referred to the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force in Cebu by the United States Homeland Security and Investigations. Police authorities planned the operation with the International Justice Mission (IJM) and carried out the plan with the help of social workers.

The team found out that the siblings were being sexually exploited by their own parents in their home. The acts were done in front of a webcam for foreign pedophiles to watch real time.

Mr. President,

What could be more painful and traumatic than being exposed to strangers while being sexually exploited by one's own parents at the very place they supposedly call home?

According to IJM, one of the girls disclosed to them that she has told her parents to stop what they were doing even though they were poor.

But poverty can never justify the actions of this couple to subject their children---one of them still a toddler---to such exploitation.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), in partnership with IJM and with the support of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), have been undertaking covert operations to rescue other victims of cyber pornography.

On September 6, two days after saving the three siblings from their parents, rescue operations commenced in Cebu to save thirteen minor---with ages between 8 and 17 years old---from the nightmare of sexual exploitation.

Other recent operations in coordination with IJM against online pornography include saving a 13-year-old girl and her cousin from her parents in Cebu and rescuing six girls in a cybersex den in Pampanga.

In many parts of the country, more children are hoping that soon they will be rescued from slavery and be able to tread on a new path for a much brighter future.

Mr. President,

Amid the political issues our country is facing and amid the work we need to do to help communities affected by recent disasters, we must not lose sight of our responsibility to protect our children from forced labor, slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of human trafficking.

We ensured the passage of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act to strengthen our legal defenses against individuals and syndicates involved in the illegal human trade. The strict implementation of this law as well as other related pieces of legislation is the greater challenge.

IJM, through its Project Lantern, has successfully demonstrated how through law enforcement we can effectively reduce the occurrence of sex trafficking.

The IJM conducted Project Lantern from 2007 to 2010 in Metro Cebu. They partnered with the PNP and provided special anti-trafficking training to law enforcers. They also provided assistance on investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases.

The IJM also entered into a partnership with DSWD for aftercare assistance such as immediate crisis counseling and support. They worked closely with aftercare providers to provide secure facilities and effective rehabilitation program for the victims.

With IJM's intervention, police authorities in Metro Cebu rescued 259 sex trafficking victims from January 1, 2007 to September 30, 2010. In the three years prior to Project Lantern, the police rescued only 27 victims. The project also proved to be successful in preventing sex trafficking as it resulted in a 79% decrease in the availability of children for sex in Metro Cebu from 2007 to 2010.

These results prove that our laws are effective if we know how to make them work.

The stricter provisions of the strengthened anti-trafficking law should be matched with its effective implementation. Our government agencies should partner with concerned organizations, such as the IJM, and our police force should undergo continuous training because human traffickers have become more innovative in their actions.

We must be circumspect as criminals use technology to their advantage, which is why cyber pornography is becoming rampant.

In relation to this, I have filed Senate Bill No. 532, the Anti-Computer Pornography Act. We realize that with advancements in the Internet and other technological media allowing communication to cross geographic and national borders in a matter of seconds, everything has now become reachable with the click of a button. Most of these technological advancements have been utilized by unscrupulous individuals for illegal activities such as the cases that were uncovered by the IJM.

Through this proposed measure, we aim to protect minors from indecent and immoral material transmitted through electronic mail and other electronic media.

We must keep in mind that human trafficking, and the related problems of the illegal sex trade, forced labor, and other forms of slavery, is a complex web. Battling it requires a concerted effort from all sectors of society.

We must not lose sight of the fact that traffickers target the most vulnerable sectors of society, especially the youth, and this is the injustice that we must act against.

Thank you, Mr. President.

News Latest News Feed