IT is with no small irony that this overwhelmingly Christian country, the only one in Asia apart from tiny East Timor, celebrated the feast day of the Sto. Niño or the Child Jesus last Sunday amid a series of widespread and unspeakable crimes being committed on children.
As our parish priest said a special blessing to kids gathered by the foot of the altar, headlines swirled here and abroad of how the Philippines has now become one of the world’s leading cyberporn hotspots preying not on consenting adults, but on innocents as young as five.
The conditions have never been this easy for purveyors of virtual flesh shows. Forget hand-held video cams and Wi-Fi. Nowadays, you only need a small room, prepaid Internet stick and laptop clear and fast enough to transmit real-time performances to anywhere in the world.
The market, a growing number of pedophiles in the West, is willing to pay fairly huge amounts of money just to get its fix.
For sure, both audience and performers couldn’t have made a connection without middlemen/financiers providing the hardware and advancing the “talent fee.”
I won’t trouble you with the figures. As reported in the news, a joint team of law enforcers from the UK, Australia and the Philippines swooped down on both buyers and sellers of this form of perverse entertainment sometime last week.
Several pedophiles are now in jail in the UK. Philippine police also raided several makeshift production houses (read: rooms and holes in the wall) in Angeles, Metro Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro.
As expected, many of these places were situated in the slums. The running gag, if you can call it that, is cyberpornography featuring children has become the latest “cottage industry” to take members of the urban poor in this country by storm. According to estimates, as many as 100,000 children have so far been victimized.
Not the last
Dozens of children were rescued, while several adults, including some of the children’s parents, had been arrested. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of cyberpornography in this country.
Like tango, it’s a given that there should be two willing players for such nefarious activities to flourish—the pedophiles on one hand, and the children’s pimps, guardians and parents on the other. Both parties aren’t in short supply.
While reading the news the other day, I also came across a telling quote from a local police officer: “We’re pretty sure that these activities were meant for foreign viewers, as it is generally not in our culture to consume child pornography.”
In short, we Filipinos don’t get turned on by children fondling each other and doing whatever the balding, middle-aged Caucasian on the computer screen bids them to do.
But not a few people in the West do. And since we have an ample supply of actors, it didn’t take long for some enterprising and amoral souls to come up with this business model—the digital equivalent of parents and elders pimping their children to pedophiles supposedly shooting the rapids in Pagsanjan in the ’70s and ’80s.
At the same time, our parish priest declared last Sunday, as he tried to explain the Filipino’s seemingly unmatched devotion to the Sto. Niño: “We Filipinos love children!” Do we, Father?
If we are to go by reports that the parents themselves were the ones pushing their children to perform in live sex shows, I’m beginning to doubt that we really do.
Again, not a few analysts blame poverty for an uptick in cyberpornography. Some children reportedly earn as much as $100 per appearance—a substantial amount to families consisting of eight to ten members who are forced to survive on barely $2 a day.
I even came across a news item, which I didn’t bother to read anymore, of a local bishop again ululating and pointing to the RH Bill (the shelved bill providing Filipino couples with a menu of free and accessible choices and services on how to best plan their families) as the ultimate culprit. Ulol (fool)!
(How can such mindless churchmen ascribe a development to a law that hasn’t even been implemented yet? I suppose the bishop is also laying the blame on the RH Bill for the rise in sexual abuses committed by priests on children the world over.)
Actually, dear bishop, part of the problem stems from too many unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. No parent in his/her right mind would subject his/her child to such inhuman and appalling conditions unless the family with too many mouths to feed is pushed to a corner.
No touch, no damage
Some parents, a social worker echoed, find nothing wrong with it. Go figure. They’re not guilty of putting their kids in harm’s way, said the arrested parents, since the supposed predator behind the computer screen is thousands of miles away.
Either these people are playing blind or have simply become inured themselves to the effects of emotional and psychological traumas inflicted on them by society that they’re now willing to subject their own flesh and blood to a much more worse fate.
Another social worker debunked as a “myth” that no touching takes place. Probably not between predator and prey. But the children themselves, she said, touch and are made to perform all sorts of sexual acts on each other.
The damage is probably irreparable. Just imagine what would happen to these children if no immediate intervention takes place.
But poverty doesn’t seem to fully explain it. There are countries that are as poor or much more poor than the Philippines with no extensive and thriving cyberpornography industry. Some of these countries are not even predominantly Catholic.
So, why has a country that professes its undying love for children, even to the point of clergymen meddling in the affairs of the state to defend the “rights” of the unborn, come to this?
Let’s not even touch on the growing market thousands of miles away as one of the causes. Unless we treat our children as separate and distinct individuals with rights of their own, and not as property we could use and exploit as we please, child abuse in the form of kiddie porn is bound to continue and even flourish.
Again, this development only shows a failure on the part of both church and government. All that seemingly impressive growth rates the government is crowing about all these years are useless. From the way things are, they’re not trickling down and uplifting the lives of the poorest of the poor.
At the same time, the church is pretending that all will be well if we simply have more children and publicly declare our love for them never mind if couples don’t have the wherewithal as well as the emotional maturity to raise these individuals properly.