sexual exploitation of children

DOJ orders NBI to probe alleged sale of lewd content online by students

Bonz Magsambol
DOJ orders NBI to probe alleged sale of lewd content online by students
(3rd UPDATE) The Department of Education is “deeply alarmed by the rise of cases of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children during the pandemic'

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the alleged online activity of students selling sensual videos and photos to raise funds to buy gadgets meant for distance learning.

In the DOJ order on Monday, January 4, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra granted NBI the authority to conduct the investigation and “file the appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act in connection therewith.”

The DOJ also ordered the NBI, through its officer-in-charge Eric B. Distor, to submit reports on the progress of the investigation within 10 days.

On Sunday, January 3, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian sounded the alarm on students allegedly engaging in online sex to meet the demands of distance learning in terms of technology access.

He urged the DOJ and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “intensify” their crackdown on the said activity.

He issued the call after learning of an alleged online “Christmas sale” of their sensual photos and videos to buy gadgets for their siblings and pay for internet bills in support of their distance learning. (READ: Gatchalian urges DOJ, PNP to probe alleged online sex ‘Christmas sale’ of students)

The supposed Christmas bundle, which contains photos and videos that sometimes reveal the face of sellers, is sold for as low as P150, said Gatchalian.

DepEd to conduct own probe

In a statement on Tuesday, January 5, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that the Department of Education (DepEd) is conducting its own probe into the matter. 

She added that the department is consolidating reports from their field offices “as initial reports state that students resorted in selling their private videos and photos to have sufficient funding for online learning.”

Earlier on Monday, the DepEd said it is “deeply alarmed by the rise of cases of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children during the pandemic, including a reported students’ online sex ‘Christmas sale’ activity.”

The DepEd added that even before the pandemic, it has launched several initiatives for the protection of children, and has developed and distributed materials related to child online protection.

It also said that it supports the work of the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography and other government agencies, and shall “fully cooperate with them in efforts to prevent and address pornography” among students.

The DepEd reiterated that gadgets and internet connection are not requirements for distance learning as there are other modes that students could turn to.

“Depending on the available resources, public schools are also implementing other alternative distance learning modalities such as modular, radio, and TV-based instruction,” the department said.

Schools in the country have shifted to distance learning – a mix of online learning and printed modules – following President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to suspend face-to-face classes until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes locally available. (READ: FAST FACTS: DepEd’s distance learning)

The decision to open classes in the middle of a pandemic was met with criticism. Students and parents pointed out their household finances have been affected by months of lockdown, and they could not afford to buy the tools needed for the revamped education system.

A Rappler investigative story published in May exposed the existence of Twitter accounts that sell and trade child sexual abuse, or videos of minors engaged in sexual activities. (READ: Child sex abuse material now peddled for as low as P100 on Twitter)

The videos were sold from P100 to P500. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.