PH center opened to combat Internet crimes against kids

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Law and international enforcement agencies have launched the first Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) at Camp Crame.

PICACC is a collective effort to combat child exploitation across the Philippines by the Philippine National Police Women and Children?s Protection Center (PNP WCPC), the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Human-Trafficking Division (NBI AHTRAD), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (UK NCA) in partnership with non-government organization, International Justice Mission (IJM).

The collaborative international effort is a significant step in their mission of combating online exploitation of children through an enhanced global response.

The vision of the PICACC is built on achieving a single aim ? striving for a world where children are free from online exploitation.

Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) is one of the most alarming forms of human trafficking in the Philippines today. Sex offenders and predators anywhere in the world can search online and pay to direct live sexual abuse of children.

In 2017 alone, the Philippines received 45,645 National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTips related to OSEC.  According to IJM?s data, about 50% of rescued OSEC victims are children aged 12 and below.

The event marked the commencement of PICACC?s operational status, in that it is now able to support ongoing OSEC investigations.

The PICACC will be the focal point for all PNP WCPC and NBI AHTRAD regional offices, by providing a national and international support element to those involved in combating the online exploitation of children. This will eventually involve connectivity with and enhanced capabilities for the regional offices of PNP and NBI.

AFP assistant commissioner Debbie Platz said the PICACC is a hub for domestic Philippine and foreign law enforcement collaborative efforts to combat the online sexual exploitation of children.

Platz said this will become a Southeast Asian regional ?centre of excellence? for this crime type.

In January 2019, the UK NCA trained agents from the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation to increase Philippine law enforcement ability to gather evidence against perpetrators in the Philippines. 

Officials said this not only enhances Philippine law enforcements ability to hold perpetrators accountable, but it strengthens their ability to do so without relying as heavily on victim testimony ? a welcomed child protective measure.

Mark Bishop, head of the Asia-Pacific region for the UK National Crime Agency, said that the UK is pleased to be part of this collaborative effort in the region to tackle the scourge of child sexual abuse and exploitation ? the consumption of live-streamed abuse, produced by criminals using vulnerable children, a considerable problem in the UK.

?The Prime Minister, Home Secretary and our Director General have all publicly identified this as a key priority for NCA,? said Bishop.

Bishop stressed that NCA, with considerable additional funding from the UK?s Combined Security and Stability Fund, will provide additional manpower and training over the coming years, to help build PICACC with Filipino and Australian partners, all as part of UK?s deepening contribution in the ASEAN region.

The launch of the PICACC comes at a time of increasing inter-agency collaboration in the Philippines. In March 2018, The PNP Women and Children?s Protection Center, and the NBI Anti-Human Trafficking Division, conducted a joint operation, resulting in the arrest of a 31-year-old Filipino man who was offering his two nieces — aged 9 and 16 at the time of rescue — to perform exploitative acts for foreigners online.

PNP WCPC chief William Macavinta said the establishment of the PICACC is a manifestation of both international and local government and non-government organizations joining hands together and committing to end OSEC.

Macavinta said the ability to leverage partner agency reach and capability will enhance the collective global law enforcement effort to detect perpetrators and protect children.

NBI AHTRAD chief Janet M. Francisco said nothing can be more appalling than sexually exploiting and abusing our children.

?It is an unforgivable act that deserves no less than condemnation from the international community. The advent of the internet era has made it easier for traffickers? to prey on our helpless children, in an international extent.?

?With the establishment of the PICACC, local and foreign law enforcement agencies, as well as NGOs, will be working hand in hand to save our children from abuse. It is a leap forward in our quest for a trafficking-free world,? said Francisco. — Edu Lopez

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