/ 28 May 2021

THE SENATE on Thursday approved on third and final reading a bill that aims to expand and improve government protection of children against online sexual abuse and exploitation.

Senators unanimously passed Senate Bill 2209, also known as the Special Protections Against Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Law, or the Anti-OSAEC Law.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, head of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, and sponsor of SBN 2209, said that the measure will better protect children against acts of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation online.

“It is time that we put an end to the rampant online sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the country. Let’s make sure that there will be no more predators and abusers who will be able to avoid our laws, and that there will be no more child victims subjected to such horrible acts,” Hontiveros said.

The bill expands laws like the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 and plugs gaps in the law by defining and penalizing online sexual abuse and exploitation of children as a separate crime from those punished under current laws like the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discriminaton Law and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

The bill grants law enforcers additional tools to investigate and prosecute Filipino and foreign perpetrators of OSAEC, particularly those hiding behind the veil of anonymity provided by online platforms and applications.

It also imposes additional legal duties on internet intermediaries — such as internet service providers, web hosting providers, online payment system providers, social media networks and others — to adopt systems of preventing, detecting, blocking and reporting acts of OSAEC.

“This means that social media companies like Facebook may be duty-bound under law to block and remove material involving child sexual abuse and exploitation within 24 hours from receipt of notice, preserve such evidence in their possession, and devise procedures of preventing, detecting, blocking and reporting any similar material,” Hontiveros said.

The bill also bars the entry into the country of persons convicted of child abuse and exploitation as well as those being investigated by Philippine authorities for involvement in OSAEC activities.

A registry of foreign and local OSAEC offenders will be maintained and regularly updated, Hontiveros said.

The National Coordination Center against OSAEC will be created to coordinate government efforts against OSAEC and to receive tips and reports of such activities.

“Sadly, the Philippines has become one of the global hotspots of child sexual abuse and exploitation. According to the UNICEF back in 2016, we were one of the top ten countries producing child sexual abuse and exploitation materials. This problem has only gotten worse with the COVID-19 pandemic, since OSAEC cases reportedly increased by 264.6 percent,” Hontiveros said.

“We have a shared responsibility to end the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Armed with effective legislation, we should work as one community towards stopping these horrible acts against young Filipinos everywhere,” she added.