Ac­tion, not si­lence, the right re­sponse to PH tag as child porn hub

Manila Times - - OPINION -

HIS is a de­press­ing ed­i­to­rial for us to write and pub­lish, fol­low­ing our ed­i­to­rial the other day, which wel­comed the World Bank prognosis that the Philip­pines will con­tinue to be the fastest-grow­ing econ­omy in the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions.

But this must be done. We have a re­spon­si­bil­ity as a news or­ga­ni­za­tion to re­port both the good and the bad.

So here goes. In its Jan­uary 4 is­sue, the the pres­ti­gious weekly mag­a­zine, pub­lished a re­port on the Philip­pines en­ti­tled, “Hub of child pornog­ra­phy.”

The ar­ti­cle is not just an eye-opener. It is a shocker for our gov­ern­ment and our cit­i­zens to read.

In the ar­ti­cle, the mag­a­zine re­ports that the coun­try has be­come a global hub for the pro­duc­tion of child pornog­ra­phy and sex­ual abuse of chil­dren. Here is a net­work of porn pro­duc­ers and con­sumers that sus­tains the busi­ness. The mag­a­zine backs up its claims with fact-check­ing on the work of one cen­ter for teen abuse, and with in­ter­views with young peo­ple who have fallen vic­tim to the men­ace of sex­ual abuse and ex­ploita­tion.

It re­ports on the work of the Cen­ter of Hope, a shel­ter run by a for­eign NGO. It also cites in­ter­views with peo­ple on the front­line of the prob­lem

In a cruel irony, the mag­a­zine avers that his­tor­i­cal, tech­no­log­i­cal and so­cial fac­tors have helped to turn the Philip­pines into relic of the coun­try’s time as an Amer­i­can colony, means that both chil­dren and those abus­ing them can com­mu­ni­cate eas­ily with clients. The swift spread of the in­ter­net, to which 55 per­cent of Filipinos now have ac­cess, up from 9 per­cent in 2009, means cy­ber­sex dens can op­er­ate in in­creas­ingly re­mote ar­eas of the coun­try. Wide­spread mis­trust of the po­lice dis­cour­ages both cy­ber­sex vic­tims and those who sus­pect wrong­do­ing from ask­ing for their help. And the fact that a higher pro­por­tion of peo­ple in the coun­try use metham­phetamines or am­phet­a­mines than in any other coun­try in Asia, abets the prob­lem.

The pres­i­den­tial spokesman and gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tors will pre­dictably protest or dis­pute this story. But we think the proper ap­proach is for our gov­ern­ment – the Depart­ment of So­cial Wel­fare and De­vel­op­ment (DSWD) and the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice, among others – to in­ves­ti­gate and de­ter­mine the ve­rac­ity of this re­port. Ef­fort must be ex­erted to de­ter­mine whether the prob­lem is re­ally rife.

The gov­ern­ment must waste no time vis­it­ing and see­ing for it­self the so-called Cen­ter of Hope, be­cause it is billed as just out­side of the metropoli­tan cap­i­tal. The mal­ady could be real or it could be worse.

There are vic­tims of abuse and ex­ploita­tion. And there are

If we have here a full-blown so­cial emer­gency, the na­tion must know. We have to get at the truth by seek­ing it from the in­ter­net, es­pe­cially in Aus­tralia and Amer­ica. We have to know and un­der­stand the prob­lem bet­ter.

All is not lost. Tech­nol­ogy, says the al­lows the au­thor­i­ties bet­ter ways of track­ing down con­sumers in far­away places. A re­cent six-week pi­lot project con­ducted by the Philip­pine po­lice was a big suc­cess. The Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties and In­ter­pol, a group through which the world’s po­lice forces co­op­er­ate, are now also in­ter­ested.

There is some­thing here also for Congress to ad­dress and act on. Like other coun­tries, we must con­sider mod­i­fy­ing our laws to ex­tir­pate these on­line hor­rors. Child pornog­ra­phy should have no space to breathe in this coun­try.

De­ter­mined ac­tion by our gov­ern­ment is the best re­sponse to the re­port.

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