MANILA -- Liza Soberano is determined to use her star power for good as she takes a stand against online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC).
The actress was one of the speakers in a webinar organized by Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday, which tackled how children are more vulnerable to online sexual predators given the quarantines caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She was invited by Hontiveros after taking to Twitter to express her sentiments on OSEC, sharing the senator's post on Facebook pages that offer child pornography.
"As a celebrity, due to my large following, I realized that I should use my voice for social injustice. I realized that the role of an advocate is to offer independent support to those who feel that they are not being heard, and to ensure that action is taken seriously upon these criminals," Soberano said.
"I feel that as an advocate, I can help spread awareness amongst everyone that is on social media nowadays, especially now in the time of this crisis, or this pandemic," she added. "I can really help in voicing out help for these children and guide people, and spread awareness that there is something that we can do about this."
Soberano went on to remind the public that the fight against OSEC does not end with reporting cases online.
"It also starts with guiding children on how to use social media properly, and also an insight on the parents as to how they can guide their children when they are on social media and the internet," she said.
Soberano, who is a Psychology major, expressed optimism that people will use the "dark" reality of OSEC as motivation to strive for a better life for the youth.
"Right now I'm taking up Psychology, and I find that us humans, when put in darkness and pain, we're able to reuse that as motivation to strive for something better, to achieve something out of that. And that gives me hope that because there are so many platforms nowadays in social media and ways of communicating, [and there are] communities that are being opened up to spread awareness about different matters," she said.
"I'm hopeful that the newer generation, the youth, will be more aware and educated on how to use social media and the internet properly."
A study by International Justice Mission (IJM) released Thursday showed that the Philippines has become the world's largest known source of OSEC, with parents and relatives responsible for facilitating the abuse in nearly all cases.
Atty. Rey Bicol of IJM Philippines thanked Soberano for adding "a very powerful voice" in the movement against OSEC, with the public and the government giving more attention to the issue, thanks to her efforts.
"It's a hidden crime. This is committed in the confines of the homes of the perpetrators with the use of technology... So kailangan po talagang mag-participate ng community, and people like Liza to call the attention of everyone and report about this," he said.
Hontiveros, for her part, said Soberano "accelerated" their initiatives to spread awareness about OSEC in the country.