By Fr. Shay Cullen
The good news is that hundreds, if not thousands of children will be protected from abuse and molestation by some of the 660 British subjects arrested for accessing unlawful images of children on the internet by a coordinated police action throughout the United Kingdom a few weeks ago. Many more suspects have been identified as accessing these horrific images of children being abused and could be arrested soon. The depressing news is that many of the images are of very young Filipino children and some could have been made by a British subject or her male associates.
The discovery of 5 children between the ages of 5 and 7 years old and a 6 month old baby in the house of a British born woman in Subic, Philippines has shocked readers. Some of the children bear signs of having been sexually abused and tell horrifying experiences. A boy, 7 years old, tells of being sexually molested and being photographed naked by a male visitor to the house where he was confined. A six year old girl was found tied to a chair in a filthy room strewn with empty liquor bottles.
The suspect, now in the custody of the Philippine police, is a female British subject from Scotland, Lilian May Thomson Zimmer, 65, with a US passport. The images of these abused children are likely to be shared with paedophiles in the UK and elsewhere. Perhaps some of the 660 suspects arrested a few weeks ago around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have viewed them already.
Zimmer is charged with direct assault on persons in authority, serious illegal detention and child cruelty. More charges may follow. The children were rescued after a month-long campaign by the Preda Foundation to persuade the authorities to save the children. Finally, the children are now safe in a government child care home and recovering from their ordeal and talking about it.
There is a growing number of arrests in the Philippines of suspects making illegal images of children and using children for live cyber sex shows beamed over the internet whose customers are from the UK and other countries. They satisfy their depraved desires and earn huge sums of money. They get away with it because of lax law enforcement, bribery, and the non-compliance of the Internet Service Providers(ISPs) with the law.
The 2009 law, Republic Act No. 9775, states that filters and blocking software must be installed on the servers of the ISPs but it has not been done, that is five years of non-compliance and blazon flouting of the law.
The telecommunication corporations and the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) are in some kind of collaboration; that must be investigated by President Aquino. The NTC regulators have perhaps been embraced, captured, and who knows, even money may have changed hands. If so, it is a criminal conspiracy to subvert the law.
This law, if implemented by the specially created Senate and House Committee headed by the respective Chairs of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family relations and the House of Representatives Committee on Justice would give at least 85% protection and thousands of children could be saved. But the committee has failed to act, and has failed the Filipino children; a worse crime perhaps than the politicians who are accused and jailed for allegedly stealing billions of pesos from the people.
Republic Act 9775, under Section 9, says: “The duties of Internet Service Providers (ISP) are to monitor the content passing through their servers, notify the police of illegal content and provide the authorities the particulars of users who gained or attempted to gain access to an internet address which contains any form of child pornography. All ISPs shall install available technology, program or software to ensure access to or transmittal of any form of child pornography will be blocked or filtered”. (complete law on http://www.preda.org)
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is supposed to oversee the implementation of the law. The law says that the ISP failing to implement and comply with the law should pay a fine and have its license to operate revoked for non-compliance. But the law is clearly ignored, flouted and disobeyed. It is a grave injustice to the Filipino people and children worldwide.
It is a stark reminder just how the rich corporations can manipulate the government commission and officials so they can continue to earn huge profits from the transmission of these illegal images of children to be sexually assaulted, raped and abused. They claim they are innocent and not responsible for the images passing through their servers. But the law says they must prevent the transmission. What greater evil is there for such images to circulate among child abusers instigating them to commit abuse?
This evil trade and the complicity of government agencies and corporations in not stopping it is a gross violation of children’s rights and an insult to the Filipino people. Such neglect and dereliction of duty that allows the images of thousands of children being sexually abused broadcast around the world to pedophiles is a crime in itself.
Clearly, President Aquino, the anti-corruption president, does not know this is happening but for him to act now would be a great service to the children and will inspire the nation. We can all help by writing to the President at Malacañang Palace, Manila, Philippines. Lighting a candle in the darkness will enlighten the minds and hearts of those that live there. [firstname.lastname@example.org ; http://www.preda.org]
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)