(File photo)

The province’s social welfare office is aiming to ramp up efforts in protecting children who are most vulnerable to online sex trafficking and abuse during the current quarantine period.

Provincial Social Welfare Department Office (PSWD) chief Abigail Ablaña said Thursday that the Child Protection Program is an integral part of their office’s mandate, which is to protect children from all forms of abuse.

The decision to bring more focus to online trafficking came about during the start of the lockdown, when many families were forced to stay at home, with more children turning to gadgets and the Internet.

“Kaya ang sinasabi namin, lalo na sa mga nanay, if you can monitor ‘yong mga galaw ng mga anak ninyo. Ngayon ay pinagkaka-bisihan ng mga anak ay gadgets, baka bumisita sa mga na hindi dapat,” Ablaña said.

The information advocacy to supplement the Child Protection Program will be a multi-platform campaign to inform both children and parents of the dangers of online sexual exploitation. Ablaña stated that while there have been no recent reports of online sex trafficking of children in Palawan, it is better for families and communities to stay vigilant.

“In partnership with the POP (Peace and Order Program), we are capacitating the VAW (violence against women) barangay desk officers,” said Ablaña. “Kaya mapa-VAWC (violence against women and children), mapa-trafficking in persons, mapa-online sexual exploitation, we are really finding ways on how to heighten awareness and vigilance among families and communities, despite hindrances to mobility.”

The Philippine National Police (PNP) recorded a total of 17 VAWC cases in Palawan for the months of January to May 2020.

Ablaña admits that the PSWDO believes that the actual number of cases may even be higher, since many possible victims may have struggled to report their cases while in lockdown.

“When the PNP presented the data, siyempre nasa first quarter pa lang [ang data], hindi mataas ang records of [VAWC cases]. Kahit hindi mataas, we know for a fact that there is still abuse and violence within the home,” said Ablaña. “Dahil nga limited ang mobility at access to technology, hindi natin masisigurado na accurate ang data. That is why we suggested that we still do advocacy,” she said.