“The Philippine Government refuses to idly stand by while this reprehensible crime threatens our children. We have been tenacious in the pursuit to end it in the country by sustaining and scaling all our efforts to address this issue.”
This is the strong message of Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, Chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) that opened the 3-day Global Resolve Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Virtual Summit on 18-20 November 2020.
The Virtual Summit is a result of alliance of the IACAT with the US Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) and International Justice Mission (IJM) as part of the Child Protection Compact partnership between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and The Government of the United States of America signed on 11 April 2017.
This partnership was noted by John C. Law, Chargế d’Affaires ad interim of the United States Embassy in the Philippines, in his speech saying that “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.”
The Summit started with a comprehensive discussion on the nature and scale of online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines based on the results and data gathered in a study conducted by IJM entitled “Online Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Philippines: Analysis and Recommendations for Governments, Industry, and Civil Society.” Full report can be viewed in this link: https://www.ijm.org/documents/studies/Final-Public-Full-Report-5_20_2020.pdf.
Key Philippine government officials also shared and introduced their agencies’ responses and efforts in combating online sexual exploitation of children, with all the challenges and breakthroughs in its implementation.
On the second day, the Philippine Government, IJM, and key partners had detailed discussions on key lessons learned and effective practices in law enforcement and investigation, prosecution, victim after-care, local stakeholders coalition building and advocacy. For law enforcement and investigation, our resource persons highlighted and emphasized the importance of the establishment of the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC), which solidifies the effective international collaboration of the Philippine Law Enforcement Units with Foreign counterparts and International organizations. PICACC now serves as a model for an enhanced global response against OSEC cases.
Experienced Prosecutors and child protection advocates shared how they built strong cases without relying on child-victim testimonies as part of the prosecution strategy to protect the best interest of the child. Our resource persons/prosecutors also stressed the significance of a plea-bargaining agreement as a child protective measure- =promoting recovery and healing of the child victim without testifying in court. The aftercare journey of survivors were thoroughly explained by a panel of experts in each stage of the journey. Presenters shared the innovative and emerging best practices in survivor care in the Philippines, guided by representatives from non-government and faith-based organizations. The speakers also highlighted the integrated and coordinated response to online sexual exploitation of children by the inter-agency coalitions and networks, local frontliners and community leaders. These multi-disciplinary groups accomplish more because they move together while representing a broad set of roles, influence, and expertise.
The last day of the Summit discussed how the international communities and global experts work together in law enforcement and prosecution, as well as in assisting the Philippine Government in gathering technical tools and in acquiring more knowledge and expertise in detecting new child sexual exploitation materials and livestreamed child sexual abuse through technology.
“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.
The Virtual Summit ended with a long list of global resolve and commitment from partners, advocates, leaders, and champions in this fight. Worthy to mention is the call from a survivor — “I urge our government to strongly implement our laws related to combating the online sexual exploitation of children. I plead to the private sector and other organizations to consider joining us in this journey so that all children trapped in online sexual exploitation would be freed. By joining this fight, you can make rescue and restoration a reality for children, women and men, like me, around the world.