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MANILA, Philippines – A YouTuber flagged for encouraging grooming minors continues to evade the authorities’ operations, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-cybercrime Group (ACG) said on Thursday, July 21.
Police Lieutenant Michelle Sabino, spokesperson of the PNP ACG, told Rappler that even before YouTuber “Usapang Diskarte” became viral, they were already monitoring his channel. However, before the police unit was able to engage the predator, his channel was already turned down.
“Now after they found this out, siyempre ni-refer natin sa cyber security, and then sa women and children cybercrime protection unit natin. So sila naman ang gumawa ng social engineering tactics to engage the guy,” Sabino told Rappler.
(Now after they found this out, of course, we referred to the cyber security, and then to the women and children cybercrime protection unit. They created social engineering tactics to engage the guy.)
“Unfortunately, bago natin ma-engage si guy is nag-viral (Unfortunately, before we can engage him, the guy became viral, which led to our request and the general public as well to take this down,” Sabino added.
Since Usapang Diskarte’s channel has been taken down, the PNP ACG spokesperson said it would be harder to entrap him.
“So dahil taken down na siya, mahihirapan na kaming i-bait siya kasi alam na niya eh that the cops are after him. So even if maging successful ‘yong entrapment namin through social engineering tactics namin, hindi na siya uubra kasi alam na niya. So hindi na siya magpapahuli,” Sabino said.
(So because his channel was already taken down, we will have a hard time baiting him because he already knows that cops are after him. So even if our entrapment becomes successful through social engineering tactics, it will not work because he already knows. He will not let himself be caught.)
By the time Usapang Diskarte was taken down, the channel had at least 252,000 subscribers and had been posting content for months.
Based on the data of the PNP ACG, their unit recorded a total of 137 cases of sexual-related child abuse committed on cyberspace from 2019 to June 30, 2022. In the same time period, they also recorded 56 cases of gender-based online sexual harassment, and 120 cases of child pornography.
Around mid-July, social media users sounded the alarm over Usapang Diskarte which created content on seducing minors and objectifying women. This caught the attention of Senator Risa Hontiveros, who urged the passage of the anti-online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) bill.
In one video called “Paano Maka Iy*t ng Bata (How to Have Sex with a Child),” the content creator gave advice to aspiring predators to be patient with children they were grooming.
“Huwag kayong magmadali. Lalo na, bata ’yan, medyo ingat dapat tayo diyan. ’Wag lang basta-basta titira ng bata. Ano ’yan eh, illegal ’yun,” the content creator said with a chuckle. (Don’t rush. Especially since that’s a child, we need to be careful with them. Don’t just go ahead and have sex with a child. That’s illegal.)
Advocates and nongovernmental organizations such as EnGendeRights and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific reported Usapang Diskarte to the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation on July 13. Usapang Diskarte’s YouTube and Facebook pages were then taken down “right after” the reports, according to EnGendeRights.
“It’s appalling that there are accounts like these that teach men how to lure minor girls into sexual activities. It’s very concerning that the YouTube account had over 200,000 subscribers with some bragging about their sexual relationships with minors,” EnGendeRights executive director Clara Rita Padilla told Rappler on Friday, July 15.
Padilla, a lawyer, said that child sexual abusers can be held liable for child abuse, for statutory rape if a child is under 16, or trafficking. Uploading sexual videos of children is also punishable under the anti-photo and video voyeurism act, the anti-child pornography law, and Philippine laws against trafficking and cybercrime, she said.
Is it already a crime to teach how to seduce a minor even if the act itself has not been proven? Padilla said it depends on the content, as there are provisions in the anti-trafficking law that cover promotion of trafficking. She said some provisions in these laws could apply, and police could also check if the creator has standing warrants of arrest for any other crimes he may be violating.
More groups found
On Wednesday, July 20, Hontiveros warned of more Facebook groups that were seen to have been preying on children as well.
Hontiveros found that the groups, named “Atabs” and “LF Kuya and Bunso,” post images of minors to attract predators. Abusers also used Facebook groups to advertise “thousands” of abusive photos and videos of children on easily accessible messaging apps such as Telegram.
“Nakakasuklam at nakakagalit na may mga taong tahasang nang-aabuso sa ating kabataan… Bilang ina, mas lalo akong nangangamba sa seguridad ng ating mga anak sa internet,” Hontiveros said, and reiterated the need to pass the anti-OSAEC bill.
(It’s disgusting and enraging how there are people abusing our children… As a mother, I am more fearful over the security of our children on the internet.)
Hontiveros added that takedowns of abusive content is not enough, as predators can simply make new accounts. “Social media platforms must be proactive in repressing acts that can endanger children,” she said in Filipino.
Coinciding with Tier 1 status retention
The viral posts of the groups promoting child abuse coincided when the Philippines was placed on Tier 1 of the United States’ Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for the seventh consecutive year. This means that the Philippines meets US minimum standards to curb human trafficking.
The report found that the Philippine government continued to demonstrate “serious and sustained efforts” to combat trafficking and more victim-witness coordinators supported more victims filing cases compared to the 2021 reporting period. However, the report still found child sex trafficking a “pervasive problem.”
Citing law enforcement information, the TIP report said the Philippines is “one of the largest known sources of online sexual exploitation of children, in which traffickers exploit children, individually and in groups, in live internet broadcasts in exchange for compensation wired through a money transfer agency.” The Philippines has long been notorious for being a hotspot of OSAEC.
Both foreigners and Filipino men were cited as buyers of commercial sex acts from child trafficking victims, with the traffickers often parents or close relatives operating in private residences or small cyber cafes.
“I believe that we need to really spread awareness and educate parents and children on how to be protected from online abuse and trafficking,” said Charisa Stauffacher, founder of ReGeneration International, a nonprofit organization providing support to survivors of trafficking and sexual abuse.
“Many parents are not afraid because they believe their children cannot be harmed through a phone screen, but the internet has become so much more than this. We must be more cautious and protective than ever before,” she added. – Rappler.com
To report cases of online sexual exploitation of children, contact the following:
- 1343 Actionline – 24/7 hotline for victims of human trafficking
- Philippine National Police – Women and Children Protection Center
- Luzon: 0945 863 22 35 or (02) 2 420 6460
- Visayas: (032) 410 84 83
- Mindanao: 0928 604 6425 or 0917 180 6037