House panel to probe rising cases of online child sexual exploitation amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) — The House Committee on the Welfare of Children is set to investigate the rising number of cases of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Monday, committee chairman and Tingog Party-list Representative Yedda Romualdez said such cases should be investigated and laws pertaining to it should be reviewed "to keep up with the complexity of OSEC and the increasing levels of digital technology."

Romualdez said the pandemic has made occurrences of OSEC worse with the loss of sources of livelihood and the surge of online activities of minors, among others.

According to Romualdez, apart from parents peddling their children to online sexual predators, other forms of abuse include online sexual grooming, and the creation and distribution of materials containing abuse and exploitation.

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In May, Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar said during a televised briefing that such cases have gone up.

Back then, she said operations were being conducted to gather evidence.

Villar said suspects may be charged for violating the Anti-Child Pornography Act and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, adding that online sexual exploitation of children falls under qualified trafficking in persons and carries a sentence of life imprisonment.