MANILA — A day after declaring war against online child sexual exploitation, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla on Wednesday urged internet service providers (ISPs) and telcos to cooperate in the campaign or risk facing prosecution and fines.
“Ang isa namin pakiusap talaga is the ISP, internet service providers, and the telcos to put filters in their systems para hindi makalusot itong ganitong gawain,” he said during a Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.
“Pag hindi nag-cooperate ang mga ISPs at nakalusot lagi, there’s a pattern na lumulusot sa kanila, we will also include them in the people who will be charged for online sexual exploitation,” he added.
Remulla, at a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday, had vowed to go after anyone who directly or indirectly contribute to online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC), citing findings of different international agencies that the Philippines has become the world’s largest known source of materials exploiting chidren.
Official data showed reports on online sexual exploitation rose to 47,937 in 2020 from 19,000 in 2019 amid quarantine restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Philippines has a law against child pornography passed in 2009 and this year, a bill against OSAEC lapsed into law.
Under the Anti-Child Pornography Act, ISPs are required to report to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) within seven days if any form of child pornography is being committed in their servers.
The Anti-OSAEC law shortens this reporting period to 48 hours and imposes the additional responsibilities of blocking these materials and setting default safety settings for children.
A violation of the requirements could mean a fine of between P500,000 to P1 million under the Anti-Child Pornography Act, while the new Anti-OSAEC law imposes a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to P2 million, both for the first offense.
“If we have to write a letter to all of them, we will, para lang sabihin na they have been forewarned na we will not tolerate any practices and that their cooperation is very important to us,” Remulla said.
The justice secretary vowed to issue an ultimatum.
“I’ll be speaking to the heads of our cybercrime division of both DOJ and NBI so we will know what it would take for them to comply and what is needed. But I will definitely issue an ultimatum. When? From now to Sept. 15 if it will take that long. Whatever it takes, basta gagawin natin yan,” he said.
Aside from the sanctions under the laws, Remulla said the National Telecommunications Commission could also impose fines.
“The NTC can issue fines on a daily basis for non-compliance. That's been done before. It has to be steep but of course they can be closed down if they become, if they refuse to cooperate. Pag kumampi ka sa kalaban, kalaban ka na rin,” he said.
The justice chief emphasized the need to resort to “technical and technological” solutions to the problem — one of which is to go after the payment system by working closely with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
The DOJ sits as vice chair of AMLC.
“We are working closely with them regarding this online sexual exploitation of children so that we will know the IP addresses, we will know the payment system and the identities,” Remulla said, adding that millions of dollars are being exchanged on a daily basis.
“Kasi ang problema ho rito, kadalasan magulang mismo or guardians of the children ang involved on the exploitation of children. At least, if we would be able to stop the payment systems, there would be no come on for them to keep doing this,” he explained.
While the Philippines is not lacking in terms of laws to prosecute online child abuse and exploitation offenders, Remulla said it might be high time to amend obsolete Immigration laws in the country to prevent foreigners from entering the country, if the sole purpose is to exploit children.
“Hopefully, we can have something done to strengthen the Immigration [bureau]. That’s the point of entry of all these criminals who prey on our children. Kaya kinakailangan talaga maiayos ang Immigration law. Pero just the same, we are asking the Bureau of Immigration to tap more people. And we are trying to adapt new technologies especially biometrics,” he said.
Remulla acknowledged sharing of data with other countries on foreigners with pending cases in other jurisdictions remains a challenge.
“A record of sexual crimes should be made a common database to all the countries, to Interpol and Immigration authorities throughout the world para matigil ang movement nila,” he said.
Four departments are currently involved in an inter-agency effort to combat OSAEC. Aside from the DOJ, these include the departments of Social Welfare, the Interior, and the Information and Communications Technology.
Remulla sought to include the Department of Education in future efforts.
“We have the experts and the NBI, the PNP crime lab, the cyberlab ng PNP and the NBI that can deal with this,” he said. “But we still need help of everybody to make people aware that this is not something we should tolerate.”