No child should be a victim of abuse, exploitation – DSWD Sec. Taguiwalo

QUEZON CITY-- I would like to unite with all of you in this collective vision: no child should be a victim of abuse and exploitation. We want to promote a mindset among Filipinos that child abuse and sexual exploitation of children is wrong and should not be allowed in a society that claims to have respect for children's rights.

This was the message of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo as she reiterated the importance of protecting children against all forms of abuse, including online sexual exploitation, during World Vision Philippines' 60th Anniversary Press Launch held recently in Quezon City. It was also the launching of the organization's, "It Takes a World to End Sexual Exploitation of Children" campaign.

This campaign is very timely given the continued proliferation of most disturbing reports about children falling victim to various incidents of sexual abuse. World Vision is an organization that I am certain can and will do justice to this campaign, given its track record for advocating for the rights of children. Efforts such as those of the organization to document and monitor incidents of violence against children should be lauded and duplicated, she added.

World Vision's campaign aims to protect three million children worldwide from sexual abuse and exploitation. It aims to accomplish three things, including empowering children to protect themselves, partnering with concerned government agencies which are stakeholders in the issue, and working together with the public to influence stakeholders to prioritize taking action.

Based on the DSWD report, nationwide child abuse cases numbered to 4,374 in 2015. In the first quarter of 2016 alone, reported cases were pegged at 2,147. These cases were handled by the Department through its centers and community-based services.

Meanwhile, data from international child rights agency Terre des Hommes show that there are around 75,000 child predators online, many of whom are trying to contact children in the Philippines.

A UNICEF global study also shows that in 2015, the Philippines Office of Cybercrime received 12,374 cyber tips from the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The study also noted that the number of criminal cases of live stream child abuse in the country continues to rise, from 57 in 2013, to 89 in 2014, and 167 in 2015.

We cannot be indifferent to cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of children when we hear of them. Even if we are not directly related to children being abused, we must all the more stand on their behalf because, in many cases, those who should be protecting them have failed them, or even more tragically, they are the perpetrators of sexual exploitation and violence, Sec. Taguiwalo said.

Preventing child abuse

There are number of things that the government and private institutions can do to help prevent child abuse and neglect, according to Sec. Taguiwalo.

These include providing support to early intervention initiatives; helping promote projects that work with preventive efforts; and increasing the knowledge and awareness of sexual exploitation and abuse and the rights of the child among children, parents, and those who work in close proximity to children.

In the DSWD, we call on our units to take a more pro-active role when it comes to reporting cases of child abuse and sexual exploitation. All government agencies and networks tasked with the promotion and protection of children's rights should continue to be active when it comes to monitoring the safety and welfare of Filipino children, Sec. Taguiwalo said.

I also call on the public to report incidents of child abuse and sexual exploitation to the DSWD, barangay offices, the police, or other concerned agencies or non-governmental organizations working on children's welfare. We also make it known that children themselves may file the complaint, or on their behalf, their parents, guardians, relatives, social workers, the barangay chairperson, or at least three concerned citizens may do so, she explained.

While abuse of children cut across all socio-economic classes, the welfare chief said that children from poor families including those from migrant families are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.

Our efforts at working for a safe world for all children means advocating for socio-economic reforms that strike at the roots of poverty- genuine land reform, national industrialization, ending ENDO, free health care and education, among others, she said.

Sec. Taguiwalo received a plaque of appreciation from World Vision during the press launch in recognition of the DSWD's support for the organization's advocacies.

Source: Philippines Information Agency