By Zaldy De Layola, May 18, 2023; Philippine News Agency

MANILA – Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian and Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Thursday signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Republic Act (RA) 11930, also known as the “Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials (CSAEM).

R.A. 11930, which amended the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, ensures the protection of every child against all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation, especially those committed with the use of information and communications technology (ICT).

The event was witnessed by Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Executive Director Wendell Bendoval of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), and Margarita Magsaysay, OIC Executive Director of Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP) to National Coordinating Center Against OSAEC and CSAEM.

The signing of the IRR for RA 11930 is meant to unite all Filipinos in protecting children against online sexual abuse and exploitation.

Gatchalian described the signing as a meaningful journey towards enhancing the protection of children against online abuse.

“The DSWD, as one of the signatories of the IRR, will remain vigilant in making sure that the provisions will be strictly implemented and never abused. Likewise, the Department will continue to craft relevant plans, policies, and programs to address the evolving need for better protection, recovery, and reintegration of victim-survivors,” Gatchalian said in his message.

For his part, Remulla pointed out that the Philippines remains a prime target for online sexual abuse and exploitation of children, owing to factors such as poverty, fluency in English and widespread internet access.

“It is the responsibility of all, from the government to everyday citizens, to protect the innocence and well-being of our future: the Filipino children,” Remulla said.

According to the Child Rights Network, the launch of the IRR heralds a groundbreaking milestone in the Philippine battle against OSAEC.

“Data shows an alarming surge in OSAEC-related reports, particularly at the height of the pandemic. This alarming trend is supported by the findings of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which documented a significant rise in suspicious financial transactions linked to online sexual abuse,” said Mr. Romeo Dongeto, Convenor of the Child Rights Network.

“We are pleased to witness the Philippine government prioritizing this urgent matter. They have actively engaged civil society, the private sector, and even children themselves in shaping how the law will be enforced,” Dongeto added.

The IRR of the Anti-OSAEC law outlines the comprehensive guidelines and mechanisms to combat OSAEC, ranging from effective reporting to robust international cooperation.

The IRR also establishes the National Coordination Center against OSAEC and CSAEM (NCC-OSAEC-CSAEM), which falls under the IACAT. This center will be responsible for developing programs to address OSAEC and CSAEM.

A modern law for a modern crisis 

For her part, Senator Risa Hontiveros, main author and sponsor of the Anti-OSAEC Law in the Senate, said the Philippines has created a comprehensive legislation and an IRR that reflect the invaluable input obtained through a nationwide consultation, making it “a true landmark in our legal framework.”

“We can proudly proclaim that we have crafted a holistic legislation that assigns responsibility to every sector – from law enforcement to the private sector. This modern law and its corresponding IRR directly tackle the complexities of our modern world,” Hontiveros said.

The IRR covers the duties and responsibilities of the private sector, especially internet intermediaries and internet service providers, down to internet hotspots, cafes, or kiosks.

The IRR also lists key instrumentalities in fighting OSAEC, including financial investigation of perpetrators, blacklisting of aliens, and age verification protocols.

As provided in RA 11930, an OSAEC and CSAEM Offenders Registry for Filipino nationals and foreigners will also be created.

Rule III of the IRR also delineates how the Philippines can exercise jurisdiction over OSAEC offenses, even if committed outside the Philippines. It also clarifies how international legal cooperation on OSAEC cases can be achieved.

UNICEF Representative to the Philippines Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov also lauded the newly-launched IRR, calling the document a “reflection of our aspirations for the Filipino children.”

“It stands as a testament to our unwavering commitment to create a safer and more secure future for every Filipino child, be it in online or offline spaces,” the UNICEF representative said.

RA 11930 is a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 2209 — primarily authored by Hontiveros, and House Bill No. 10703 — primarily authored by Representative Cheryl Deloso-Montalla and sponsored by House on the Welfare of Children Chairperson Rep. Yedda Romualdez.

Empowering the youth 

Meanwhile, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) said it supports the issuance of the IRR for the OSAEC and CSAEM Act.

“This legislation signifies a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to combat online sexual abuse and exploitation of children, as well as the dissemination of child sexual abuse or exploitation materials,” it said in a statement.

NPC said the process of drafting the IRR for the Anti-OSAEC and CSAEM Act was commendably thorough and inclusive.

“It entailed multi-sectoral consultations involving various stakeholders such as children’s groups, the private sector, the general public, and other organizations dedicated to combating online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. This collaborative approach facilitated invaluable dialogue and insights, undoubtedly contributing to the IRR’s comprehensiveness and effectiveness,” it added. (PNA)