Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, supporting the bill that seeks to strengthen the protection of children against abuse and exploitation

Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, supporting the bill that seeks to strengthen the protection of children against abuse and exploitation

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) welcomes the House of Representatives’ approval on final reading of House Bill (HB) No. 10703 or the “Anti-Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children.” Under the proposed legislative measure, internet intermediaries and other internet or payment service providers are required to take down and/or block websites that stream illegal content of abuse of minors. It also includes provisions for stiffer penalties for those involved in cases of child abuse and reporting pathways for both online and offline abuse. These features are crucial in ensuring the prevention of such crimes especially in the context of fast-evolving abuses in digital platforms.

Child abuse reflects the failure to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. Sexual abuse and exploitation of children constitutes a grave violation of children’s dignity. The psychological harm of such abuse may impact them until adulthood and may imperil their prospect of a hopeful future. A holistic approach to preventing and combatting child abuse requires both the government and members of society working together to raise awareness and public vigilance to stop the proliferation of all forms of sexual exploitation of children.

HB 10703 is an urgently needed legislative measure to address the rising cases of child abuse and sexual exploitation as we transition to the new normal and in the context of fast evolving technology. The pandemic has exposed the prevalence of online sexual exploitation of children. In 2020 alone, the country’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking noted that there were 1.2 million tips about alleged activities involving the online sexual exploitation of children. It is expected that the proposed measure will ensure accountability of perpetrators and will help deter further similar crimes.

CHR recognizes the efforts of the members of the lower house of Congress to ensure child protection through this bill. As we await the formation of a bicameral conference committee to reconcile the Congress’ upper and lower chambers version of this bill, CHR hopes for its expedited passage to enable our laws to keep up with rising cases of child abuse—towards achieving better protection of children online and offline. ###