Civil society organizations proclaimed and signed their manifestos against online abuse of children during Ako Para Sa Bata 2015: Cyberprotection of Children, held at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu on December 1 and 2, 2015.
Almost 1,000 delegates composed of teachers, students, social workers, and health workers condemned the “menace” that is the online abuse of children which includes cyberbulllying, sextortion, child pornography, and web cam sex tourism.
The Department of Education pledged to “protect children from the perceived and actual risks of unsafe internet usage.”
“Thus it shall promote positive online behavior among all its pupils and students in partnership with all stakeholders to ensure that all children are protected from the irresponsible use of online technology,” their manifesto stated.
Students, for their part, vowed to fight cyberbullying by defining their boundaries on media usage, bearing in mind the values of respect, empathy, discipline, sincerity, and compassion. “We commit to be catalysts in an enlightened youth movement that boldly stands up against cyberbullying,” they said.
The group Cyber Teens Responsible Leaders of Cebu, headed by Samantha Caballes, also promised to raise awareness through an education program on the responsible use of Information Communications Technology. “We, the Cyber Teens Responsible Leaders of Cebu, actively join forces and absolutely say NO to cyberbullying,” she said.
Health workers, represented by the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS), also committed to fight all forms of abuse, including online child exploitation. The PPS already incorporated Child Protection into the curriculum of their residency training program. “This equips all pediatricians with the right knowledge and skills to respond to child abuse cases,” they explained in their manifesto.
The group also aims to raise awareness of online child abuse among its members and other medical practitioners through inclusion of relevant topics in the upcoming 2016 PPS Convention.
Terres des Hommes Netherland’s Philippine Country Office, the group that helped catch predators with the help of a virtual Filipina girl named Sweetie, pledged to continue the fight against the occurrence of webcam sex tourism and other forms of online child abuse and exploitation.
In their manifesto, they gave the chilling statistics of how many online predators search for pornographic images of children every day. “Every moment, about 750,000 pedophiles go online in search of victims. In turn, tens of thousands of Filipino children are being victimized,” it stated.
“It is high time that we do not just focus on the supply side. The demand side needs equal attention on the ground that for as long as there is demand, there will be supply. Let’s make this world a better place for our children. We owe it to them,” they added.
The International Justice Mission also gave their manifesto and vowed to “support law enforcement units in investigation of online exploitation of children that lead to the rescue of the children and the lawful arrest, charging and prosecution of their abusers.” Their manifesto also stated that they will support aftercare providers in ensuring that survivors of the abuse receive the services needed to be restored to health and safety.
UNICEF, for their manifesto, promised the government of the Philippines and the non-governmental organizations to build specialized technical capacity of law enforcers and social workers to ensure child victims of online sexual exploitation are identified. “UNICEF will support the establishment and effective use of reporting mechanisms to ensure that child victims of online exploitation and abuse have access to quality support services in accordance with international standards and practices, and that child sexual abuse material on the internet is reported and removed,” it stated.
They also pointed out the importance of information and access to appropriate support services so that cases of child online sexual exploitation are investigated and prosecuted. “UNICEF will support systematic research and date collection on child online exploitation in order to gather evidence on trends, drivers, and effective intervention to tackle online abuse,” it added.
Lastly, it also pledged support for the implementation of awareness raising campaign so that children, families, teachers and other caregivers are better able to identify online risks and take protective measures to prevent online sexual exploitation and abuse.
These manifestos will be reviewed for next year’s 2016 Ako Para sa Bata conference, when delegates will report the progress for each of their promised goals.
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