SEN. Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday reiterated the need for a stronger crackdown on all forms of human trafficking including the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC).
The senator made the remark even if the Philippines has retained its “Tier 1 Status” by the United States for meeting the minimum standards on the elimination of trafficking.
The US State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report for the Philippines showed the government convicted 73 traffickers under the anti-trafficking act and related laws, most of them for child sex trafficking, including 25 who sexually exploited children online.
The report said the Department of Social Welfare and Development served 1,205 trafficking victims including 157 victims of OSEC.
The report also identified other challenges such as slow-moving courts, the need for additional training on handling digital evidence in hearings and trials, and too few prosecutors.
During the lockdowns from March to May 2020, the Department of Justice’s Office of Cybercrime said reports of alleged OSEC cases increased by 264 percent compared to the same period in 2019.
Last year, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill (SB) 1794, which seeks to strengthen Republic Act (RA) 9208 as amended by RA 10364 or the “Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012.”
“Through the bill that we’re pushing, which aim to strengthen our laws against human trafficking, it is our desire to protect our youth from this kind of abuse and violence,” he said in a statement.
SB 1794 seeks to provide standards and guidelines on surveillance, interception, investigation, and prosecution of different forms of human trafficking, including sexual exploitation, prostitution and pornography.
It provides that in cases of child trafficking and when law enforcers have established that a crime of is being committed or plotted, regional trial courts can authorize law enforcers to conduct surveillance and record communications.
Internet service providers (ISPs) and tourism-oriented establishments are also given responsibilities under the measure.
ISPs are mandated to block and filter any access to child pornography, Gatchalian said.
Tourism-oriented establishments will also be tasked to train their staff to recognize signs of human trafficking crimes so they can report them to law enforcement agencies.