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Local Legislators Rise Up as Champions of Child Protection
Local governments and their lawmakers form a growing wave of child protection, making localities across the Philippines more equipped against OSAEC than ever before.
Wed Dec 20 20237 min read

The enactment of the Anti-OSAEC (Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children) Law in mid-2022 provided new opportunities for local government units (LGUs) to strengthen child protection in their communities.

This launched a series of collaborations between IJM and local governments. IJM updated its training for local legislators to focus on specific provisions of the new law and the resources it offers local governments in protecting their communities from OSAEC. IJM delivered the updated training in August and November 2022 and worked with local government councilors, mayors, and other officers from places like Pampanga, Laguna, Negros Occidental, and Butuan City as they drafted and enacted their Anti-OSAEC ordinances.

These ordinances are specific to each local government. Enacting and implementing the ordinances make each locality a place where children are protected from online sexual abuse or exploitation.

“In 2022, we have seen the success of the first two local legislators' trainings. Within a year, this resulted in 18 Anti-OSAEC Ordinances across the Philippines following the recent enactment of Republic Act No. 11930 (Anti-OSAEC Law). This number is just the beginning,” says Atty. Lisa Guevara-Garcia, Director of IJM’s National Prosecution Development team.

Angeles City’s Pioneering Anti-OSAEC Work

Strong leadership and swift action characterize Angeles City’s efforts. Led by Councilor JC Parker Aguas, an anti-OSAEC Local Ordinance was passed in Angeles City by the end of 2022.

Councilor Aguas launched an intensive campaign in the barangays and public schools in the city through a massive anti-OSEC (anti-online sexual exploitation of children) and child protection information drive engaging the city’s Gender and Development Office (GAD), the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC), the Angeles City Department of Education (DepEd) and the Youth Development Council of the Angeles City local government unit (LGU).

In 2023, Councilor Aguas was recognized by Asia’s Modern Hero Awards 2023 as a “Heroes’ Exemplary Government Leader and Advocate for Children’s Welfare.”

Angeles City’s example is a guide and encouragement to other LGUs. “The efforts of Councilor Aguas can be easily replicated in other LGU’s through and once a local councilor decides to embrace the cause,” says Glenn de Guzman, IJM’s Lead for Local Activation and Partnerships.

Laguna: A Vision for a Safe Future for Its Children

Laguna province has begun its journey envisioning what a child-protective community can look like and how they can get there. They are eager to build a future in which OSAEC is proactively addressed and prevented.

The local government and IJM met to explore approaches to strengthen local governance on child protection in the 3rd district of Laguna through the implementation of the OSAEC ordinance.

These include:

  • Training that will equip law enforcement agents, prosecutors, and social workers on the use of the child-protective video in-depth interview (VIDI) framework

  • OSAEC orientation

  • Trauma-informed care training

  • Upgrade resources- financial support for the services for OSAEC victims.

  • Transportation support in the rescue of OSAEC victims

  • Upskilling government officers and workers

With training programs, local government officers and staff will be empowered to operate with a new level of awareness and vigilance against OSAEC.

It was a pleasure for IJM’s National Prosecution Development Team and National Aftercare Development Team to dialogue with Board Member Karla Adajar and Provincial Social Welfare and a Development Office (PSWDO) Representative on this vision and its realization.

Pasig City Takes Initiative

When members of the Pasig City local government saw the progress various LGUs have been making in enacting ordinances across islands, they reached out to IJM to work together on the Pasig City Anti-OSAEC ordinance. Members of IJM’s National Prosecution team served as resource speakers, sharing vital information and guidance that allowed the larger Pasig leadership community to appreciate the significance of the proposed ordinance.

On November 13, 2023, Pasig City passed its Anti-OSAEC ordinance through Councilor Simon Tantoco.

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Like various ordinances that have been enacted, Pasig City’s ordinance contains very specific provisions to address prevention of the crime, detection of the crime, and response to the crime:

Mall owners, operators, and lessors of business establishments have responsibilities to report any hints of possible sexual abuse or exploitation in their premises.

Internet cafes or kiosks are to be regulated by the local government and undergo a seminar / orientation on Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children as a post-requirement to the issuance of a business permit.

Mandatory services are to be made available for victims of Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation and the creation of Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials.

A Committee Against Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children will be formed and be responsible for the implementation of the Anti-OSAEC Ordinance.

Local Legislator Training Continues

This December 4-6, 2023, IJM held a 3rd training on RA 11930 for local legislators, another opportunity to initiate the same transformation, for more localities across the country.

Twenty two local legislators gathered in Quezon City to attend the Seminar on Child Protective Strategies on Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) and the Role of Local Legislation in Providing a Supportive Environment for Survivors.

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Seminar participants and speakers. Seated on the second row, in the middle, is Atty. Margarita N. Gutierrez, Undersecretary for Plans, Public Affairs and Communication of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Next to her, second from the left, is Atty. Lisa Guevara-Garcia, Director of National Prosecution Development, IJM.

The seminar focused on empowering participants to provide trauma-informed services and interventions to child survivors of OSEC. The seminar introduced IJM advocacy initiatives and trauma-informed strategies and provided recommendations for engaging survivor leaders for their input and experience on initiatives that best support rehabilitation, recovery and restoration.

Through each speaker session, question-and-answer periods, and the workshop, attendees participated in conversations about reviewing, revising, and enacting existing ordinances to include survivor leaders’ input. It is exciting to see another group of policy makers equipped to enact change in their jurisdictions.

“In the most recent training for this new batch of legislators, we observed a heightened awareness of OSAEC and the issues surrounding this crime in different local government units. There is a collective sense of urgency to seek out effective solutions against this atrocity,” Atty. Lisa Guevara-Garcia observed.

One of the highlights of the training was when Azalea* and Solenn*, two members from the Philippine Survivor Network (PSN), shared their stories and insights.

Atty. Margarita Gutierrez, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary for Plans, Public Information, and Communication delivered the closing remarks at the training, representing the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, Benjamin Abalos. We are grateful for the DILG’s commitment to help end OSEC in the Philippines.

To have an Anti-OSAEC ordinance in every LGU is obviously the expected outcome but it has never been the end goal. However, it is an important piece that will constitute the foundation for budget allocation from the Chief Executive that would translate to the implementation of projects specified in the ordinance. From what we have seen so far that progression is steady and forthcoming.

-Atty Lisa Guevara-Garcia

With the continuing training, the unwavering passion and commitment of our local governments, and the strong support of our national government, firm foundations are being built for a safe future for children all around the Philippines.

Local governments who are interested to learn more or request training, please reach out to us through https://www.ijm.org.ph/contact

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