Philippines: Catholic church pushes for anti-child porn bill passage

Manila, 13 March (AKI) - The Philippines powerful Catholic church has again put its weight behind the passage of an anti-child pornography bill, currently stuck in the house of representatives or lower chamber.

Father Conegundo Garganta, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Youth (CBCP) said that it is high time that the bill is passed into law.

"We’ve been pushing for this long time ago and it’s about time for lawmakers to take this issue so seriously," he said in a statement published in the CBCP website on Friday.

Garganta also admitted the CBCP is "dismayed" because of the delayed passage of the bill.

"It seems to us that lawmakers don’t really care about this issue," he added.

The Senate passed its version of the bill last November. However, it still needs to be approved by the house of representatives. As there is currently no date set for the debate, Garganta urged legislators to push ahead.

"We hope that they will not keep it longer because as days goes on we know that more innocent children fell as victims of this crime," he said.

The CBCP new endorsement is set to boost the campaign carried out by the Anti-Child Pornography Alliance (ACPA), a group comprising non-government organisations, church members and congressmen, established in July 2007 to support the passing of the Bill.

The group declared September 28 as the "National Day of Awareness and Unity against Child Pornography.”

Child pornography is a massive problem in the archipelago-country that suffers from widespread poverty and a high birth-rate.

According to ‘Child Pornography in the Philippines,’ a UNICEF-sponsored book published in 2005 and authored by Arnie Trinidad, the abuse are often perpetrated by American and European tourists. 

A major case reported in the book is that of the 595 children, aged between 7 and 17, abused by the so-called 'sex tourists' in Pagsanjan, Laguna, a rural community located South of the capital Manila.

The first documented cases of child pornography in the country date back to the 1970s and were produced by American soldiers stationed in Vietnam who went to different Southeast Asian countries for rest and recreation.

The Philippines ratified the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in 2003. But Manila still lacks a law aimed specifically at preventing child pornography.

However, current law already criminalises the use of children in any aspect of the production or distribution of pornography, defining a "child" as younger than 18 years.


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