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Hontiveros eyes strengthening anti-cybercrime law

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said she will study the possibility of proposing amendments to the Anti-Cybercrime Law to prevent the online abuse against children amid the fast evolution of technology around the globe.

The lawmaker raised this in a press conference when she was asked about the gaps in the current laws which allow perpetrators to continue these abuses.

"Posibleng hindi talaga maka-keep up both yung ating mga batas at posible yung mga regulatory mechanism ng ating internet platform doon sa bilis at talas ng pag-evolve ng teknolohiya mismo," she said.

"Napag-usapan din na ang isang dekadang edad na na Anti-Cybercrime Law natin ay kailangang amyendahan para i-update at titingnan po ng opisina ko iyon pati yung pag-enhance ng operational capacities ng ating mga law enforcement authorities on behalf of the best interest of the child," she added.

The amendment to the Anti-Cybercrime law is seen complementary to the enactment of the amended Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act as well as the impending enactment of the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) Law.

On Wednesday morning, Hontiveros, who retained her chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, held a meeting with representatives of Facebook, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

According to Hontiveros, they agreed to three steps in combating online abuse and exploitation —immediate deletion of exploitative content, the preservation of evidence on the side of Facebook, and the transmittal of the pieces of evidence to law enforcement agencies.

In the same meeting, the senator also raised the need to increase the budget of the NBI Anti-Cybercrime Units as only few regional offices were established across the country.

"Halimbawa, 'yung NBI Anti-Cybercrime unit ay walang opisina sa mga rehiyon or kakaunti lang or kulang pa yung ating mga agents na mayroon ding capacity para to keep apace at humabol sa teknolohiyang ito," she said.

On the part of Facebook, Hontiveros said the social media platform is "continuously working" on mechanisms to prevent these online abuses as the fast growing technology like the end-to-end encryption remains a challenge.

Facebook also committed to coordinate with the executive branch in crafting the implementing rules and regulations of the Anti-OSAEC Law once it is enacted.

Apart from Facebook, Hontiveros said they will also reach out to other platforms in the internet in a bid to eradicate online abuses against children.

"Inuna po namin ang Facebook dahil doon po talaga ang pinakamaraming engagement nating mga Pilipino and unfortunately, platform, na kinakasangkapan pati para sa mga OSAEC crimes," she said.

Recently, Hontiveros warned of new Facebook groups preying on children and urged social media platforms to be more proactive in taking down posts and accounts that are being used to abuse minors.

Hontiveros also earlier urged President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to sign the Anti-OSAEC Law as she posted screenshots of online contents showing comments implying sexual abuse of children.

Both chambers of Congress ratified last May the bill against the online sexual abuse or exploitation of children and child sexual abuse or exploitation materials.

The proposed measure seeks to increase the duties of the private sector, with emphasis on electronic service providers, internet intermediaries, financial intermediaries, specifically with respect to the blocking and preserving of OSAEC materials found on their platforms, and cooperation with law enforcement agents.

It will create a the National Coordinating Center against OSAEC and Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials (CSAEM) under the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT).

The bill will also establish protections and guarantees for child victims of OSAEC, particularly with respect to their psycho-social needs and it will grant additional investigation and surveillance tools to law enforcement agents, taking into account the complexities of the internet and the dark web.—LDF, GMA News