A human rights group battling the scourge of online child abuse has revealed that infants aged just two months are among the victims.
The International Justice Mission (IJM) has also revealed that eight out of 10 of those rescued from “cyberporn” operations are minors and that the majority are under 12 years old.
As of January this year, IJM has recorded a total of 294 cases of cybersex involving children — three involving babies.
IJM national director Sam Inocencio said the abuse carried out — often by the children’s parents — depended on the requests of overseas “customers”.
“Some would be the parents showing the private parts,” he said. “There are several platforms they could use – it could be over Skype [or] other platforms.”
Mr Inocencio said the abuse can have life-long consequences for the victims. “They have been violated at a very tender age and hence are unable to set healthy boundaries with members of the opposite sex.
“The impact of this abuse is immeasurable – it scars the mind of a child victim, distorts their view of adulthood, and destroys families.”
He also said parents or other abuse facilitators can earn up to 5,000 pesos per live show, depending on the level of abuse committed.
Last week, we reported on the case of 27-year-old Canadian Philip Michael Chicoine who is facing 17 years in jail for 40 counts of directing online abuse.
Over the course of five years he spent more than $20,000 directing brutal sex shows, which he referred to as “hurt-core”. He also said he preferred children — some mere infants — who cried and screamed during their ordeals.
In the US State Department’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report released this week, the Philippines maintained its Tier 1 status, which means it “fully meets” the minimum standards “for the elimination of human trafficking” under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
The report, however, recommended that Philippine authorities increase efforts in investigating and prosecuting officials involved in trafficking.
The Philippines, according to Mr Inocencio, has the most stringent laws against trafficking in the world. Republic Act 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, imposes life imprisonment for those convicted for trafficking children.
However, implementation of the law is another matter, especially since the specialised police unit to combat trafficking was only established in 2014. The unit is part of the police’s Women and Children Protection Center.
“We have to scale up the effort through the provision of more resources and staffing for these national and anti-trafficking units,” Mr Inocencio added.
According to IJM, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that, globally, there are some 750,000 cybersex predators at any given time. The Philippine Department of Justice received about 1,000 tip-offs per month from the US in 2014 — this has now risen to 5,000 monthly.
Susan Ople, the president of the Blas F Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, said cracking down on cybersex dens was difficult because the abuse happens behind the closed doors of family homes. To counter this, she said, the government needed to raise awareness of tell-tale signs of exploitation.
“We are also appealing to the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of the Interior and Local Government, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the police to join forces and embark on an awareness-raising campaign so that communities, wherever they are, would take note of the serious problem,” she added.
MORE ON THE SCOURGE OF ONLINE CHILD ABUSE: