An alliance of groups pressing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines welcomed the passage on second reading of a House bill that aims to provide stronger protections against online and offline child sexual exploitation and abuse.
“The year 2022 is starting on a positive note for children’s rights legislation,” read a statement from the Child Rights Network (CRN) on Thursday, January 27.
“We thank our champion legislators in the House of Representatives for finally heeding our call to pass this draft bill before the whole of Congress draws to a halt and dive deep into the election campaign season,” said Romeo Dongeto, CRN convenor.
He said the proposed measure “sends a message to advocates and the public that children’s rights remain at the very core of our legislative process.”
House Bill 10703 consolidates several bills pending in the House of Representatives that seek to address the nuanced issue of Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OCSEA).
The measure lays down the responsibilities of Internet intermediaries, including Internet Service Providers, Internet Content Hosts, Social Networking Sites, and banking and financial institutions.
The bill aims to enable the government to work with the private sector not only to block child sexual abuse or exploitation materials but also to ensure that technological or other practical safeguards are in place to prevent or detect recruitment and trafficking.
HB 10703 also expands the legal mantle of protection for children against physical sexual abuse and exploitation by expanding the definition of criminal acts including the livestreaming of sexual abuse, and the production, sale, and distribution of child sexual abuse materials.
With the amendments, law enforcement agencies are provided a more potent legal tool to combat perpetrators.
“We are a step closer towards expanding legal protection not only for the children of today but for generations to come,” Dongeto said.
He said CRN is confident that the House of Representatives will be able to pass HB 10703 on third and final reading before the congressional session adjourns for the upcoming campaign period for the May elections.
The Senate has already passed its version of the bill – Senate Bill 2209 – in May 2021.
CRN said the passage of the draft bill will address the situation of sexual abuse and exploitation of children that was exacerbated during the pandemic.