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International Conference ends with urgent call for protecting children from online abuse and cybercrimes

Ako Para sa Bata Conference – Cyber Protection of Children

©UNICEF PHILIPPINES/2015
UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander (second from left) is joined by the Child Protection Network’s (CPN) Dr. Yvonne Redoble, Dr. Bernadette Madrid and Dr. Naomi Poca at this year’s Ako Para Sa Bata Summit, which calls for a joint multi-sectoral call for collaboration to end violence against children.

CEBU, Philippines, 2 December 2015 – A two-day international conference called Ako Para sa Bata (I am for the Child) concluded with a clarion call to build online protection and safety for children.

Department of Justice (DOJ), Philippines Judicial Academy of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Child Protection Network (CPN), UNICEF, Energen and over twenty partner NGOs demanded urgent actions to stop online sex abuse and exploitation of children and cyberbullying of children in a major conference participated in by nearly 1,000 people.

Jillian Adeline Vestil, 20, was the first-time youth keynote speaker in this seventh APSB Conference first held in 2007. She was chosen by the 300 youth delegates of the Youth Conference last October.

Vestil spoke passionately on the adolescents’ quandary in cyberspace, “The issue is not just cyberbullying. Things that harm young people are getting creative, they are getting more complicated. They can easily become victims and they don’t see it coming.” Urging better understanding and engagement by parents and adults, she added, “Please talk to us on how to catch and punish predators. Become a meaningful part of the adolescent planet – the cyber world.”

Speaking on latest findings and negative consequences of violence on children and its staggering cost on countries and societies, UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander said, “The evidence gathered through the National Baseline Survey is critical in shaping a strong response plan led by the Government of the Philippines with partners. Ending violence and ensuring protection of children is a topmost global priority of UNICEF. We extend all out support to implementing a prevention and response plan in the Philippines.”

©UNICEF PHILIPPINES/2015/CYRIL NAVARRO
UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander provided an overview of Violence Against Children (VAC) in the Philippines, including cyberbullying and online sexual abuse. Ms. Sylwander cited preliminary results of the recently concluded National Baseline Survey on VAC in the country; the official results of which will be released in 2016.

“Adopting and implementing strong legislation, tough penalties for the perpetrators, unrelenting efforts in raising awareness, advocacy and investment are absolutely vital to end violence, abuse and exploitation of children in all life settings, including in the virtual realm. Our children are not for sale!” concluded Ms Sylwander.

The conference presentations included global situations, challenges and countermeasure initiatives against online child abuse and exploitation; cyberbullying; sexting, spread of pornographic content, addiction to the internet, and risk behaviours; research initiatives on online protection; effective investigation, prosecution and international collaboration; and good parenting in the era of pervasive cyber-connectivity.

Dr. Bernadette Madrid, Executive Director of Child Protection Network (CPN) and the Conference President said, “The Ako Para sa Bata International Conference has become a venue for increasing awareness and understanding of various child protection issues. For 2015, the Child Protection Network decided to organize the Conference in Cebu to further reach out to interested delegates from Visayas and Mindanao. The theme this year is "Cyber Protection of Children: Internet and Mobile Protection for Minors."

“We are deeply grateful to Energen and UNICEF who continue to support the Ako Para sa Bata Conference. This conference would not have been possible without their generous support along with the support of other partners. The large turnout in coming together in the Conference is a show of unity for children. We invite others to join us as well and be united for the child.”

©UNICEF PHILIPPINES/2015
Jillian Adeline Vestil, Marketing Management student at the University of San Carlos, addresses the delegates of this year's Ako Para Sa Bata Summit in Cebu, urging her fellow youth and the parents and teachers to be more conscious of the issues of cyberbullying and online child sexual abuse. She was one of the delegates and volunteers at the CTRL Youth Summit last October, which served as a pre-conference event to Ako Para Sa Bata gathering over 400 young delegates in Cebu.

The Conference shared a wealth of analyses and reflections on ways to counter the growing threats posed by sexual abuse of children in the Philippines, the grave impact of which is yet to be fully recognized. Due to the clandestine nature of the operation, it is difficult to assist victims and bring perpetrators to justice. The two days’ deliberation also strengthened possibilities for strategic partnership for urgent response to the heightening risk.

A session on UNICEF-supported research and systematic review of literature revealed the range of threats Filipino children face from online harassment, cyberbullying, online sexual solicitation, exposure to sexually explicit content and pornography, to sexting and cybersex targeted to both boys and girls. The role of family, school, community and law enforcing agencies were analysed.

Speakers in the conference comprised of international and national researchers, legal professionals and experts. More than 90 speakers representing national and international organizations and youth presented a wide array of topics on data, evidence, analyses and recommendations on online protection of children.

Media personality Howie Severino of GMA Network, ECPAT Executive Director Dorothy Rozga, Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras (DOJ), Atty Lawrence Aritao (International Justice Mission), Acting Chief Prosecutor Robinson Landicho (DOJ-National Prosecution Service), Dir. Monica Pagunsan (DOJ), and Atty Katrina Legarda (CPN and UNICEF) were among the speakers. Panelists were drawn from the PNP, DSWD, DepEd, DOH, NGOs and the academe.

©UNICEF PHILIPPINES/2015
Partners and key participating agencies in the Ako Para sa Bata Conference signed a manifesto to end online abuse and exploitation of children.

Earlier in October UNICEF and the Child Protection Network hosted over 300 high school and university students for the ‘Cyber Teens Responsible Leaders’ Youth Summit in Cebu titled Shift+Control+Delete! Highlighting cyberbullying, online ethics and privacy issues, the Summit called upon youth participants to be more responsible in their use of online platforms and spread awareness on the long-term negative effects of online bullying and abuse. It also urged parents and teachers to be more aware of changing interests and attitudes among today’s youth.

Partner and key participating agencies in the Ako Para sa Bata Conference read out a manifesto pledging to take a stand on Online Abuse and Exploitation of Children. ECPAT Philippines, International Justice Mission, Terres de Hommes Netherlands-Philippines Country Office, Department of Education, UNICEF Philippines and Cebuano Youth, representing 300 participants of the Shift+Control+Delete Youth Conference.

Ako Para sa Bata Conference 2015 concluded in a highly positive note, armed with evidence and knowledge, stronger partnership, determination and recommended firm actions in favour of cyber protection and a cyber safety; for systematic and strategic actions for prevention of and response to Online Abuse and Exploitation of Filipino children in particular and Violence against Children in general.

 

 
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