January 4, 2021 – The Department of Education (DepEd) supports the protection of all children from all forms of physical or mental violence, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment, and exploitation, including sexual abuse.

As an institution dedicated to safeguarding the welfare of its school children and youth, we are deeply alarmed by the rise of cases of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) during the pandemic, including a reported students’ online sex “Christmas sale” activity cited by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

Such abuse and exploitation are prohibited under Republic Act (RA) No. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, and RA No. 10175 or the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012”.  RA No. 9775 created the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP), composed of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as chairperson, with the heads of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), among other agencies, as members.  RA 9775 mandates the IACACP to prevent and address child pornography while RA 10175 mandates the NBI and PNP to effectively enforce the provisions of RA 10175.

DepEd supports the work of the IACACP and other government agencies, and shall fully cooperate with them in efforts to prevent and address pornography among learners.  Even before the pandemic, the DepEd has launched several initiatives for the protection of children. We have conducted cybersafety training programs in schools to protect our learners from online abuse, violence, exploration, discrimination, and bullying. We also developed and distributed materials related to child online protection, among others.

Still, these rising cases of child exploitation and abuse call for better collaboration and cooperation among national agencies and local communities, especially in these difficult times. We must not let our children be exposed to such corrupt acts under any circumstances.

We enjoin all public and private elementary and secondary schools to establish and strengthen their respective Child Protection Committees (CPC). These CPCs must proactively initiate information dissemination programs and organize activities for the protection of children, as mandated by DepEd Order No. 40, s. 2012 or the Child Protection Policy.

We have initiated efforts to strengthen CPCs in schools by creating a Child Protection Unit/Office (CPU) in the Central Office with counterparts in the regional offices and schools division offices that will support these school CPCs. This initiative is already under review by the Office of the Secretary. Likewise, we have implemented flexible distance learning and academic ease measures to ensure that education will not be costly for our parents and learners. We are continuously reminding our direct stakeholders that gadgets or internet connections are not requirements for distance learning. Depending on the available resources, public schools are also implementing other alternative distance learning modalities such as modular, radio, and TV-based instruction.

DepEd is one with the rest of the government and private organizations in this mission to curb the exploitation of children. With this whole-of-society approach, and with the help of parents and guardians, as well as the learners themselves, we are stronger together in putting an end to these abuses.