Christ as the Man of Sorrows, Albrecht Dürer, c.1493
Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe [Web Gallery of Art]
By Fr Shay Cullen
There is growing international clamor for the filtering and blocking of child pornography and cyber-sex on the internet. The Philippine National Telecommunications Commission NTC) is under national and international spotlight for not implementing the anti-child porn law law since 2009. They have promised to do it by June, five years late. Why?
It was the death of a 17-year-old boy in Scotland that led to the international outcry and investigation into a criminal syndicate in the Philippines that uses the internet and cybersex chat rooms to extort money from youngsters but drives them to suicide.
They use young women on computers connected to the internet to contact and cajole young teenagers and older men to expose themselves and perform some sex act in the privacy of their room before an internet-connected camera, thinking they are in a relationship over the internet.
Unknown to them, the act is recorded in a distant country by the perpetrators as in the Philippines, and the criminals then say they recorded it and threaten the victim to make it public to his or her family and friends unless they pay big money to the extortionist.
As many as 470 such cases of ‘sextortion’ (as it is called) was reported to police in Hong Kong in 2013 and 160 were exploited through this cybersex trap this year alone. But thousands more are ashamed to go to the police and they just pay.
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Cunningham of Police Scotland told the media that he was acting on the request of the boy’s family to catch the criminals. With many more such crimes being reported, an international investigation was launched with the help of US Homeland Security, Interpol and Philippine National Police and it succeeded in arresting 58 Filipino suspects.
If the NTC makes good on its promise to enforce the 2009 Anti-child Pornography law, the foreign- and Philippine-owned Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would have to obey the law and block such disgusting images of trafficking and cut down the cybersex abuse. Children are used in this kind of internet abuse too and they are traumatized and damaged for life.
The criminals and many in government and industry laugh at the law and say the images are just child’s play; but it is criminal paedophile play. But they have never seen these horrific images; if they did they would be committing a crime just bypossessing and viewing them. So they have to believe the investigating police, the therapists and socials workers who rescue and treat the victims. What the common person and ISP money-taking tycoons must come to know is that the illegal content passing through their servers, computers,and cellphone towers is child rape and horrific acts of sexual abuse of children, some as young as three.
Every such photograph and video of child sexual abuse is a cruel criminal act of abuse. The fact that the ISPs and cellphone companies do not block the abusive images, where there are so many software methods to do so, is presumed to be for money. Their inaction and failure to follow, respect and implement the law is in fact an act of silence. Doing nothing is a grave sin of omission and complicity in crime.
Their silence is tacit approval. Correct me if I am wrong please. I and the nation would love to hear the side of the corporate tycoons and their shareholders that allow and enable this abuse to happen.
How can it happen when government are so strict and punitive to vulnerable and helpless street children and beats and jails them in filthy, infested prison cells? Are the good and honest executives of the NTC going to really implement the law?
They have stated that they will in June 2014. We are waiting to applaud and praise them. The ISPs and all internet service providers have to comply. It should have happened in 2010. Hundreds of thousands of children have since suffered abuse when they could have been saved.
Church, government and civil society groups have been shamefully silent for too long. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has made some lame statement but it falls far short of a loud, non-stop campaign, like that which some bishops and priests and lay-people mounted against the reproductive health act. They have sinned grievously against children by not speaking out and advocating the respect and implementation of the law to block child pornography and cybersex online. The law, if implemented, will greatly reduce child abuse. Pope Francis has called for such action. Will the Filipino Bishops obey?
It is good to hear that in Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Bishop Pedro D. Arigo has spoken out, just a lone voice in the great wilderness of child abuse, calling for an end to ‘sex tourism’ and cybersex online. He needs many more to join his call and shout from the house tops as Jesus of Nazareth told us to do. Faith without action is dead, says St James in The New Testament. Our faith should drive us with courage to fight this evil and never let it grow and swallow our children.
Each one of us must answer for this. Blame others, yes, if there is clear evidence of abuse and exploitation but blame ourselves if we have done nothing to save the children and end the suicides.
Fr Shay Cullen’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and online.