By Analou De Vera
The Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking (PIMAHT) has expressed its concern over the rising number of cases of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) in the country.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said in a press briefing Tuesday that human trafficking is “viewed as a contemporary form of slavery.”
“As PIMAHT recognizes various forms of human trafficking, we raise our concern to the alarming rising cases of sexually exploited children online in the country–a phenomenon called OSEC,” said Santos as he read the statement of the interfaith group.
Since 2013, a total of 109 rescue operations has already been conducted, which resulted to the rescue of 389 victims of OSEC. Of the said operations, 165 suspects were arrested, and 42 of them were convicted, said Santos as he cited a data from PIMAHT.
Moreover, OSEC cases are seen prevalent in the areas of Dasmariñas City, Cavite; Angeles City, Pampanga; Iligan City, Lanao Del Norte; and Taguig City in Metro Manila, said National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) Marie Villalon.
Santos said that in most of the OSEC cases, the perpetrators were the parents or relatives of the children. He said that OSEC is rooted in problems of poverty, joblessness, and lack or absence of opportunities for “people to survive.” These conditions are forcing the parents or relatives to participate in this kind of activity.
“We view that the economic deprivation and deplorable conditions of poor families forced the parents or relatives to engage their children in this gruesome activity. Most of them are children of jobless parents, displaced urban poor people, or peasants in the provinces,” said Santos.
“We are worried that without jobs, without livelihood they will resort to something negative. And it is always our call that the government should create jobs…. jobs which are stable and secure,” the Catholic prelate added.
To further discuss the problem, Santos said that PIMAHT will hold a Freedom Forum about OSEC on Thursday, Nov. 8 at the Victory Christian Fellowship in Mandaluyong City.
The said forum will also be participated by the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
“We vow to eliminate this phenomenon as it takes away their childhood and dignity… These, therefore, will be a part of our advocacy– a life that is abundant for all children, families, and for all people,” said Santos.
“We must bear in mind that children will always grow up and they will be our future citizens, our future leaders. if they are exploited physically, sexually, and verbally their future is destroyed, their dreams are destroyed,” he furthered.