'Extensive' use of technology led to cybercrime spike during lockdown - justice officials

Angela Coloma, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 30 2020 02:11 PM

MANILA - Extensive use of technology as areas in the Philippines went under lockdown because of the coronavirus disease led to a surge in cybercrime cases in the country, including child exploitation, justice officials said Saturday.

Among these cases are child exploitation, scams, and the proliferation of fake news and online libel, the officials said at the Laging Handa briefing on state television. 

"Ayon sa report ng PNP, tumataas ang number ng cybercrime cases (According to a PNP report, the cybercrime cases increased) because of extensive use of internet and computer technology during lockdown," Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said. 

Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar said child exploitation cases may have increased because of extensive online activities, with facilitators of online sex rings- many of them relatives of victims- getting stuck in their homes and without any stable income.

“Ang mga facilitator o 'yung mga traffickers ay kadalasan 'yung mga magulang o kamag-anak ng mga bata, na pinagkakatiwalaan ng mga bata so kahit lockdown 24/7 kasama ang facilitators kasi usually nasa bahay sila nakatira, dahil nasa bahay lang ang mga bata buong araw mayroong tsansa na ma-exploit po sila," Villar said, adding that suspects are daily wage earners who need cash to get by. 

(Facilitators are mostly parents or relatives of the kids, whom the kids trust. While on lockdown they are together 24/7, including the facilitators. Since they are all at home, there is a chance for them to get exploited.) 

Authorities earlier said online child sex abuse cases have "tripled" in the Philippines while on lockdown. 

Villar said they have been carrying out operations to rescue children who have been victims of online sexual exploitation. 

Michelle Valdez, executive officer of the National Bureau of Investigation’s cybercrime division, also said cases involving fake news and fraudsters such as those behind online donation scams increased amid the lockdown. 

Among scams carried out by unauthorized entities are those calling for donations for personal protective equipment (PPE) . 

Valdez urged the public to report cybercrime complaints physically or through their 24/7 hotlines and to be vigilant with online activities. 

The Philippines, which has been on lockdown since mid-March, is poised to loosen its quarantine protocols beginning June 1 in a bid to further open up the economy amid the virus outbreak.