DFA: Gov’t working to combat online abuse ahead of UN rapporteur review

An official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday expressed hope that the United Nations Special Rapporteur who recently arrived in the Philippines will recognize the government’s efforts to fight online sexual exploitation among children.

Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat told GMA News Online that Mama Fatima Singhateh, UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children, has arrived in country on Sunday afternoon.

DFA Undersecretary for Multilateral and International Economic Affairs Carlos Sorreta said he hopes Singhateh will “recognize the achievements and best practices of the Philippine Government to eradicate online sexual exploitation of children.”

The UN rapporteur paid a courtesy call to the DFA Monday morning,

He cited Republic Act 11930 or the Act Punishing Online Sexual Abuse of Children, and the creation of the National Coordination Center as among the government’s programs aimed to prevent any form of child sexual abuse or exploitation.

Sorreta also pointed out that “international cooperation and shared responsibility amongst countries is required to address external demand factors that fuel online exploitation of children.”

He said the Philippines is committed to safeguarding all Filipino children and upholding its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) earlier said that Singhateh will be assessing the situation and the progress made in combating and preventing the sale and sexual exploitation of children in connection to international human rights norms and standards.

DFA said that Singhateh’s visit is the first official visit of a UN Special Rapporteur to the Philippines since 2015.

“Ms. Singhateh noted that this reflected the Philippine Government’s continued constructive engagement and openness on human rights,” the agency said in a statement.

Sorreta also told Singhateh of the government’s plans to ensure the success of her visit, and that the Philippines is looking forward to her observations and recommendations.

“We hope to continue working with you, also regionally and globally, to support your mandate and enhance protection of all children from online sexual exploitation,” the DFA official said.

During her visit, Singhateh is expected to meet officials from the Council for the Welfare of Children, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Justice, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, Philippine National Police, and other government agencies.

The UN Special Rapporteur will also meet with civil society representatives, private sector stakeholders, and children and their families; and will visit sites in Valenzuela City, Angeles City, Cotabato City, Cebu City, and Metro Manila.

Singhateh will be in the Philippines until December 9, 2022.

The Council for the Welfare of Children, meanwhile, said in a statement that a comprehensive report of her country visit will be shared to the Human Rights Council in March 2024.

Aside from her, Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan is also scheduled to visit the Philippines in 2023.–LDF, GMA Integrated News

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