MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Global Resolve Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children Virtual Summit kicked off today with dignitaries affirming the Philippine government’s leadership in addressing the global scourge of livestreamed child sexual abuse.
“The Philippine Government refuses to idly stand by while this reprehensible crime threatens our children,” said Philippine Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in his opening remarks before hundreds of child protection experts and leaders from around the world. “We have been tenacious in the pursuit to end it in the country by sustaining and scaling all our efforts to address this issue.”
John C. Law, Chargé d'Affaires ad interim with the United States Embassy in the Philippines, noted the significant strides made by the Philippines, as affirmed by the annual U.S. Department of Justice Trafficking in Persons Report.
“For five years running, the Philippines has maintained a Tier 1 ranking, the report’s highest, by continuing to take concrete definite steps to combat trafficking, including online exploitation,” he said in a speech during the opening ceremony. “Together, the Philippines and the United States have built a strong foundation on which to enhance and expand our efforts to stop human trafficking and online sexual exploitation of children.”
IJM Asia Pacific President Christa Sharpe said: “While the Philippines has become a global hotspot for this rapidly emerging and technology-facilitated form of child abuse and trafficking, the Philippine government has also courageously faced this problem and aims to now become a model for how to combat and end the crime.”
The Philippine experience in combating online sexual exploitation of children is highlighted by the three-day summit, which is hosted by the Philippine Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) and International Justice Mission (IJM).
“Noting the importance of this event and given that the crime of online sexual exploitation of children was again put on the spotlight during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic after an observed increase of its incidence in the Philippines, it became clear to everyone that it is imperative for the Philippine government, its partners, and stakeholders to continue on with the work and adapt with the changing times,” said Philippine Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Undersecretary in-charge of IACAT.
The first day of the summit delved into the nature and scale of online sexual exploitation of children, particularly the trafficking of children to create new child sexual exploitation materials, including livestreamed child sexual abuse – a discussion led by IJM Manila Field Office Director Reynaldo Bicol.
The Philippine response was also explained, with insights from Undersecretary Aglipay-Villar; Police Col. Maria Sheila T. Portento, chief of the Women and Children Protection Center – Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division under the Philippine National Police; Atty. Janet M. Francisco, chief of the National Bureau of Investigation – Anti-Human Trafficking Division; Assistant Secretary Glenda D. Relova of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
On the second day, sessions will focus on key lessons learned and effective practices developed in the Philippines in the areas of investigations and law enforcement, prosecution, victim aftercare, local stakeholder coalition building, and advocacy.
The last day of the summit will highlight the global response against online sexual exploitation of children, including international prosecution collaboration and technology innovations to detect new child sexual exploitation materials and livestreamed child sexual abuse.
“At the end of this conference, we envision an international community network that is working together and having that firm resolve to live in a world free from online sexual exploitation of children,” said Atty. Samson Inocencio, Jr., vice president of IJM Global Hub Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children.