By Fr. Shay Cullen
The protection and nurturing of the family and family values was once the most important commitment of Church and State. The family is composed of parents and children, that bedrock institution of society that has been and is continually being undermined and destroyed by the gross immorality that is pervading society and its institutions. The proliferation of unrestricted, unblocked child abuse images through the Internet Service Providers are partially to blame. Good parents must be aware and alarmed at the danger that this poses to their children who have easy access to the internet.
The pandemic lockdowns highlighted that extreme fragility when families were confined inside their homes. Schools were closed for two years and movement in public was greatly restricted. In a nation like the Philippines where 17.7 million people live in dire poverty, such overcrowding and compact living has its negative harmful effects on family life. Child physical and sexual abuse exploded as a result. Recent statistics of the number of child victims being referred to protection healing centers have shown that the sexual abuse of children by parents has greatly increased.
Adult parents and children were in contact with the outside world only by television and an internet connection during the pandemic. The uncontrolled and unfiltered availability of child abuse images and video sex shows of child abuse provided by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) likely led to the horrific upsurge and release of evil impulses and desires of adults to have sexual satisfaction by abusing their own children.
One of hundreds if not thousands is a 12-year old child named Elda (not her real name). In October and December 2020 and again in January 2021, she was raped by her biological father in their house in Calapacuan, Subic,Zambales. She was so scared of her father and thought that no one would believe her so she told no one. Her mother was separated from her father in 2018 but later he took custody of the children. In July 2021, Elda’s father beat her and her little brother and she went to her aunt and uncle and told them of all the abuse that happened to her and her brothers.
They immediately contacted the municipal social worker and Elda was rescued and brought to the Preda Foundation’s healing home for abused children. After she recovered emotionally and was empowered by Emotional Release Therapy, she filed her legal complaint against her abusive father. She bravely testified in court and withstood cross examination. Her testimony was upheld. Her father’s defense was denial. On her credible testimony and medical evidence, her father was convicted to three life sentences for the rape of his child. That’s what awaits anyone who is convicted of molesting a child younger than 16 years.
We can’t be sure if child abuse images led led him to commit such heinous crimes but we do know that images are easily available even on Facebook. Besides, online sexual abuse of children paid for by foreign pedophiles has grown extensively. The Philippines is the international hub for this kind of online child abuse. During the lockdowns, many pedophiles were unable to travel to poor nations to sexually exploit the children but arranged to pay for child sex abuse shows over the internet. Parents are the main perpetrators. The telecommunication companies have not installed any effective software like Microsoft’s videoDNA or photoDNA software to block this child abuse as the law mandates them to do. They claim to block access to child abuse web sites supplied by a non-government organization, Internet Watch Foundation, yet no external verification is given.
Recently, a shocking social media platform on YouTube and Facebook named “Usapang Diskarte” (meaning “Let’s Talk Strategy”), instead of being blocked, it went viral last July when it was discovered it was promoting sex abuse of children and giving pedophiles lessons on how to groom, seduce and lure children into having sex with adults. The Women and Children Cybercrime Protection Unit of the Philippine National Police immediately applied and were granted a warrant for YouTube and Facebook to reveal the people behind the postings. It’s not clear if the search warrants can be enforced in the Philippines.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla told the telecommunication corporations and the ISPs that enable the internet platforms like Youtube and Facebook that they must obey the cybercrime law and protect children by blocking the passage of such chat rooms and child abuse images through their computer servers. The dedicated secretary will come to know that the telcos are more powerful than the rule of law and government.
The only time the government will stop the Internet is when it itself is being attacked online. They will see that as an act of terrorism and the draconian cyber-libel law will be fully deployed to protect the government officials. The sexual exploitation and abuse of millions of Filipino children and others worldwide is a form of “terrorism” and the laws, especially the new online child protection law, must be swiftly and strictly implemented.
Schools, parishes and seminaries are infiltrated by pedophiles. One in every three or four children experience some acts of sex abuse before they reach 18 so that indicates how widespread is child abuse. It is becoming blatant on social media. At Bacoor National High School in Cavite, six teachers or more are under investigation since several have been accused for sexual harassment on internet chat rooms. Bringing teachers to justice is a long and tiring process. The school institutions have little fighting spirit to pursue justice and protect the students. They do more, it seems, to protect the abusive teachers.
Take the administrative case against a teacher in New Cabalan National High School in Olongapo City. In March 2019, three male students accused him of sexually abusing them in a hotel room. The case dragged on until finally on 12 May 2022, after more than three years, the DepEd Central Office finally upheld the decision of DepEd Regional Director May Eclar finding Franco Aranas guilty of grave misconduct for sexually abusing the three male minors. Until then, he was still actively teaching at the school. Two criminal cases against him are still crawling through the justice system for the past three years and justice has yet to be served.
Reports of sexual abuse of students in seminaries and in the parishes of Batanes are crying out for investigation and justice for the victims. The culture of silence and cover up must be broken and school principals and clergy must be aggressively defending the victims’ right to justice as priority, not the suspected abusers. May justice prevail.