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House panel OKs bill including online sexual abuse as human trafficking, allowing wiretapping

The House Committee on the welfare of children on Wednesday approved a proposal seeking to include online sexual abuse as part of human trafficking and allowing state forces to conduct “wiretapping” in pursuing cases.

According to chair Yedda Romualdez, the panel approved a still unnumbered bill seeking to amend the Anti-Trafficking in Persons (ATIP) Act.

“It redefines trafficking in persons to include online offenses or the engagements of others for production of child sexual abuse and exploitation materials (CSAEM) and online sexual abuse,” Romualdez said in a statement.

“Something has to be done to prevent exploitation of people for labor and sexual purposes,” she added.

Under the measure, the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation are authorized by the Department of Justice in writing to submit ex-parte applications for the issuance of written orders from the authorizing court to conduct “wiretapping” or interception on any communication in pursuing cases.

The measures also include additional provisions for qualified trafficking such as when victims are persons with disabilities, indigenous people, when the crime is committed in times of crisis or emergency, when the crime has resulted in pregnancy, or through the use of information and communications technology.

Romualdez also requested assistance from the private sector.

“We want to seek the assistance of the private sector, which by the nature of their business activities, may come into contact with a suspected trafficking situation,” she said.

The proposal is bound for plenary debates at the House of Representatives. -MDM, GMA News