Aussie-funded project needs sex offenders’ registry in PH
The creation of a registry of sex offenders known to have preyed on children will be one of the components of an Australia-funded project to combat child trafficking in the Philippines.
Australia will request the Philippine Congress to enact a law creating such a registry as part of its P66-million program on child protection against sexual abuse and exploitation, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said on Tuesday.
Bishop led the launch of the three-year project, which is seen to boost the Philippines’ capability to monitor the activities of foreign pedophiles, and at the same time warn communities that a sexual predator may be within their midst.
“Child sexual abuse and exploitation is an aberrant crime. It is a serious social issue that is not confined to the Philippines. All countries are affected by this, including Australia,” Bishop said at the launch of the program in Makati.
“The existence of these crimes has intensified by virtue of technology and social media,” she said, adding that the issue was compounded by the fact that some parents in impoverished communities were complicit.
The officials who attended the event included Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman who both expressed their support for the Australian initiative.
Bishop said the program will also ensure that Philippine authorities would have the training to deal with the serious criminal issue, aligned with other Australia initiatives on transnational crime, including human trafficking and money laundering.
The program, which will run from July this year to June 2018, adopts a three-pronged approach: protection of children against online sexual abuse and exploitation, prosecution of offenders and delivery of justice to victims, and promotion of children’s rights to a safe and secure online environment.
The program components are the following:
Drafting and advocating for the passage of a Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act;
Advocating child-friendly rules in family courts;
Establishment of community-based multi-sector and local task forces in selected pilot areas to serve as Child Protection Quick Reaction Teams;
Legal audit of online child sexual abuse cases in courts through the National Family Courts Summit conducted in September;
Drafting of a communications strategy, public information and education campaign on the rights of children against online sexual abuse and exploitation, and Multi-sector training of justice system actors.
The wiretapping of sexual offenders could be part of this effort to protect children from sexual predators, said Bishop who was in the Philippines to attend the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting, and to deliver Australia’s statement addressing “Inclusive Growth Through Sustainable and Resilient Communities.”
The P66-million program is in coordination with The Asia Foundation and seeks to bring together public and private resources to support efforts of the Philippine government to protect children particularly from online abuse and exploitation.
Its private sector partners are Telstra, ANZ Bank and QBE Insurance Group.
“This program is about caring for children whose innocence is lost, children who are victimized because of poverty, children whose own parents bring them into this kind of hideous situation,” Soliman said.
She cited instances when children were encouraged by their own parents to perform lewd acts online for money, thinking that no harm was being done, as no physical touching was involved.
But little do the parents know that their children’s “souls are being destroyed,” Soliman said.
With the sex offender registry mechanism, she said communities could know in advance that they were being “targeted” and thus could take steps to protect their children.
“That can help us in ensuring that prosecution will happen,” Soliman said.
She said the registry would go a long way in helping the authorities monitor convicted child abusers in the country.
Australia, along with European countries, is one of the nations whose citizens are known to visit the Philippines for sex, Soliman said in the interview.
Paul Hopkins of the Australian Federal Police cited Australia’s own “Child Offenses Register,” which requires certain sexual offenders to report their whereabouts and activities to the police.
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