Cases of sexual exploitation of children on the internet more than tripled over three years in the Philippines, making the Southeast Asian country a “global hotspot” for such crimes, according to findings of a study released Thursday.
The report by the U.S.-based International Justice Mission said that 149 of every 10,000 Internet Protocol (IP) addresses linked to child sexual exploitation in 2017 originated in the Philippines, three times higher than the rate of 43 of every 10,000 in 2014.
This makes the Philippines a global hotspot for online sexual exploitation of children, said IJM, which completed the study in partnership with the U.S. State Department, the Philippine government and a dozen law enforcement partners around the world.
“The results of the study show that OSEC is a growing and heinous crime,” Philippine Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar said, referring to online sexual exploitation of children.
“We need to act as a global community – ending impunity in both source countries like the Philippines and demand countries,” said Aglipay-Villar, who heads the justice ministry’s Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking.
She said the Philippines was committed to strengthening its international collaboration to fight the menace.
Data from participating law enforcement agencies showed that the Philippines “received more than eight times as many referrals as any other country during the study’s baseline period,” said IJM, an international NGO which focuses on human rights, law and law enforcement, in a statement.
IJM said the study was unable to measure the prevalence of internet abuse because of inconsistencies in the quality of reporting by electronic service providers and because internet providers were not detecting abuse that goes live online.
Livestream abuse here comes to light only when foreign law enforcement partners identify a suspected offender, such as in cases of trading pictures and videos of the act, the study said, adding that 64 percent of cases in the Philippines had been initiated by referrals from foreign authorities.
“There are children who need rescue now, but rescue starts with timely detection and robust reporting,” IJM Philippine chief Samson Inocencio Jr. said as he urged the tech industry to help by reporting livestreaming of these materials.
The report said 90 cases of internet sexual exploitation of children were investigated between 2011 and 2017, involving 381 victims. Of this total, authorities were able to determine the exact length of abuse – ranging from two months to four years – for only 43 victims.
“An analysis of victims’ profiles further showed that the median age was only 11 years old, with the youngest less than 1 year old,” the IJM report said. “Another unsettling finding is that 41 percent of victims’ abuse was facilitated by biological parents and 42 percent by other relatives.”
Encouraged by success
John Richmond, who heads the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said Washington had dedicated “significant resources” to battling the scourge.
“We are encouraged by the success of our partnership with the Philippines. Together we are working to ensure traffickers are prosecuted, victims and survivors are protected, and this crime is prevented for future generations,” he said in a statement.
In 2018, a court in the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro sentenced an Australian citizen, Peter Gerard Scully, and his Filipino partner, Carmen Ann Alvarez, to life in prison for operating a cybersex business that abused children. Police said the couple forced children to perform sexual acts which they streamed online to clients outside of the country.