The panel discussion entitled “Ending Child Rape and Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Philippines” featured individuals that have expressed their stand against child rape and CSEC. This included Plan International Philippines Communication and Advocacy Manager Ernesto Almocera, Jr., the Psychosocial Support and Children’s Rights Resource Center’s (PSTCRRC) Executive Director Elizabeth Protacio-De Castro, PhD, Atty. Stephanie Tan of the Children’s Legal Bureau, Inc., media personality and Officer-in-Charge of Called to Rescue Anthony Pangilinan, and Girls Got Game Advocacy Manager Trish Ayson.
According to the study, “Children and the Sex Trade in the Digital Age,” launched last October by Plan International Philippines, CSEC continues to be prevalent and lucrative in the country with an estimated 100,000 cases of Filipino children trafficked into prostitution rings each year.
To make matters worse, the current law states that as young as 12 years old, children are legally able to consent to sex. The Philippines also has the lowest age of sexual consent stated in its laws, as compared to its neighboring countries in Asia wherein the minimum is 16 or 18 years old.
It was announced in this event that a bill is currently being drafted to raise the age of sexual consent to determine the grounds for statutory rape. Its passage is led by the Child Rights Network (CRN), in which Plan International Philippines is a part of.
Elizabeth Protacio-De Castro, PhD of PSTCRRC shared that children at the age of 12 are not able to comprehend the meaning of consent and sexuality. She emphasized that should the age of sexual consent be kept this low, even more Filipino children will be at risk of CSEC and the lifetime effects that come with the traumatic experiences.
Meanwhile, Atty. Stephanie C. Tan of the Children’s Legal Bureau, Inc. said that should this new bill be passed, it will be able to provide those children at risk of being recruited into CSEC, as well, as those who have become victims of sexual violence and abuse, a more concrete form of protection when it comes to seeking justice in court.
It was emphasized however that the bill cannot stand on its own; and that it must be complemented with a holistic form of care for those who have been rescued from the dangers of CSEC, as well, as those at risk of being brought into it.
Trish Ayson of Girls Got Game mentioned the importance of rehabilitation after a traumatic experience. In her experience, she shared that children can be taken out of physical danger but allowing them to recover is just as important. At Girls Got Game, Trish encourages children to turn to sports after being exposed to trauma and abuse.
Apart from assisting rescue operations and raising awareness, Anthony Pangilinan of Called to Rescue, also discussed how he takes it upon himself as a father to educate his children about these issues and talk about “informed consent” and “sexuality,” to initiate the conversation within his own network.
“Everyone should play an important role in our fight against CSEC,” mentioned Mr. Almocera of Plan International. “While the government can provide substantial support for recovery, peers and family members of victims can show support by creating a better environment at home.”
In partnership with the Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA), Plan International pioneered #NotForSale last year, raising awareness on the issue and encouraging victims to speak up. Support the advocacy and continue to fight CSEC by visiting https://plan-international.org/philippines/not-for-sale.