By Macon Araneta

Citing reports of students holding a “Christmas sale” of sensual photos and videos to raise funds for distance learning-related expenses, Sen. Win Gatchalian urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Cybercrime and the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group to intensify their probe and crackdown on these activities.

According to a news report by The Philippine Online Student Tambayan (POST), a news portal for the student sector, some students use #AlterPH, #AlterPinay, and #AlterPhilippines on Twitter to sell their photos and videos. 

The reports also said these students use what they earn to buy gadgets for their siblings and pay for internet bills.

A Christmas bundle, which contains an array of photos and videos that sometimes reveal the face of sellers, is sold for as low PHP150.

Between March 1 to May 24 last year, there were 279,166 cases of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) recorded in Metro Manila, a spike of 264 percent from the 76,561 cases recorded from the same period last year.

The Senator and chairman of the Senate committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture said, “Criminal elements are taking advantage of the needs of our students and this should be fought off by the government.”

Gatchalian added that DepEd, on its part, should boost its child protection program, noting that the ‘Child Protection Committees’ (CPC) in schools are mandated to identify learners who may be experiencing abuse and exploitation. CPCs are also expected to report cases to government agencies and non-government organizations.

Gatchalian seeks a stronger government crackdown of trafficking. Senate Bill number 1794, which he filed, proposes that in cases involving child trafficking, regional trial courts can authorize law enforcers to conduct surveillance and record communications and information involving persons charged with or suspected of trafficking.

He related that the  proposed measure also mandates internet service providers (ISPs) to install available technology, program, or software to block and filter any access to any form of child pornography.

Gatchalian also filed Senate Bill 735 or the Human Trafficking Preventive Education Program Act, which seeks to orient Filipino children and youth about their rights, government protection measures, and the dangers posed by different forms of trafficking.

The Senator is eyeing a law that would provide every learner in the country with a laptop and access to the internet. 

A provision under the bill, which has yet to be filed, will eliminate the need for learners to resort to desperate measures that may meet their current needs and will only cause psycho-social concerns and personal issues in the long run.