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Protecting our children

Technological advancement has a dark side – it can facilitate the commission of crimes.

Child sexual exploitation is growing at an alarming rate and the worsening problem is attributed to advancements in communications technology. More children are sexually abused and the abuse conveniently happens through the Internet technology.

The recent arrest of a suspected pedophile in a town in Pampanga shows the extent of the problem particularly for the Philippines. The suspect is an American citizen. Allegedly, he did not only sexually abuse Filipino children but also facilitated their online abuse by pedophiles all around the world.

What makes this problem worse for the Philippines is the fact that Filipino children appear to be preferred “stars” in cybersex criminal schemes because conditions in our country are ideal for this crime – the Filipinos’ skill in speaking the English language, improving internet connections, numerous international cash transfer facilities, widespread poverty, and “easy” access to vulnerable children.

The first three factors are development factors that are being used in a criminal way. The last two are problems that are also causes of bigger problems. The combination of all these five factors is a recipe for cybersex schemes that involves Filipino children – a real threat not only to the welfare of the current generation of Filipino children but also to the future of their succeeding generation.

This is a problem that should be “owned” not just by the government but also by all Filipinos.

Given the nature of the problem as well as the scheme of the commission of the crime, the family and community are the most valuable front liners in fighting this menace. Even in the truly sad cases where parents become participants in the commission of the crime, the community could and should step in to fight the problem.

Even if the cybersex crime is committed in private, members of a community should be vigilant. The Pampanga case, just like other similar cases, is characterized by children frequenting a dwelling for no clear normal and legal reason. With or without parents or adults accompanying them, such should already be a cause for alarm. Part of the needed vigilance by the members of the community is the immediate reporting of alarming signs to government authorities.

The government should in turn establish mechanisms for the easy reporting of cybercrime (and all other crimes for that matter) by the citizens. With most Filipinos owning and using mobile phones, establishing an effective scheme should be easy.

The government and the people should fight cybersex – nothing less will mean substantial protection for the Filipino children. (Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI, Diplomate)