20 Years Of Making A Difference In the Lives of Filipino Children
On the evening of January 25, 2017 at the Embassy of Singapore, Bantay Bata 163 celebrated 20 years of providing protection to the children of the country. Singapore Ambassador Kok Li Peng graciously opened her doors for the child welfare foundation’s fundraiser event, Cocktails for a Cause.
Established in 1997, Bantay Bata 163 is a rescue group for abused and maltreated children that has received 400,000 calls to its hotline, and rescued 2,464 children. Furthermore, it has given these children health and educational support.
Hidden in a very dark, sleazy side of the Philippines are rundown neighborhoods that harbor pedophile rings, cybersex dens, and a thriving business of child abuse pay-per-view that utilizes parents who themselves profit from sending photos of their children. Left unsaid is the unimaginable horror: scenes of tortured babies whipped and hurt with sex toys, or remains of missing little girls found buried in apartments, cemented in bathrooms. It is a horrific world, hard to stomach and not for the weak of heart, yet it desperately needs attention.
“Bantay Bata 163 has always been known to take the road less traveled, the more difficult path. It is only by choosing this difficult path that we are able to challenge standards, exert influence, move others to act and improve lives, not only of children but society at large,” said Bantay Bata 163 program director, Jing Castañeda- Velasco. Velasco, together with United Nations Children’s Fund Philippines country representative, Lotta Sylwander, showed a presentation on the challenges that children and families face in the spread of cybersex crimes.
The presentation also included the notorious Peter Scully case. Peter Scully is an Australian arrested in Mindanao on February 20, 2015 for torture and abuse of little girls, among them an 18-month-old infant, and the murder of an 11-year-old Filipina. But on top of that, he is alleged to run an international pedophile ring. His video streams of children being tortured were uncovered in anti-cybersex police operations. He directed a video with the title, “Daisy’s Destruction,” which became an urban legend online.
The video is said to feature a naked one-year-old girl named Daisy tied upside down with legs apart, crying the whole time she’s being sexually assaulted, whipped, and tortured with sex toys by a masked adult. The police described the video to be the worst they’ve seen in their time—a video that sets the depth of the world of child abuse in the country.
The Philippines is among the top 10 countries with highest levels of online sexual exploitation. In September 2013 to 2014, almost 7,000 IP addresses and pedophile chat channels exchanged sexual images of very young children. Around 80 percent of cases or reports that the Department of Justice’s Office of Cybercrimes receive are on online sexual exploitation of children.
Fight for 2017
Internet child pornography has become common in the country. It is a reality that cannot be denied any longer. That’s why, starting this year, Bantay Bata 163 takes on the digital frontier and has allied with UNICEF to reach out to internet providers, parents, and teachers to start preventive action against the child sex trade. Starting this year, the foundation is also expanding its reach from telephones to digital and mobile platforms.
“We will go beyond response and rescue, we will go into preventive and formative programs, and upgrade the hotline to make it more accessible. ABSCBN prides itself in being a Kapamilya, and at the heart of every Kapamilya is the best interest and welfare of a child,” says Bantay Bata 163 director, Velasco.
A social welfare arm under the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Bantay Bata 163 aims to protect disadvantaged children through a nationwide network of social services that include the national emergency hotline, 163, which allows people to call in and report incidents of child abuse and exploitation. Bantay Bata has offices in the major cities in the country, which allows it to respond immediately to the emergency calls. Its programs include the Child’s Crisis Center, which provides temporary shelter to rescued children, as well as therapy and educational opportunities; and the Children’s Village that houses children who require further long-term care. Located at the borders of Metropolitan Manila, the Children’s Village provides health and wellness care, nutrition, education, and psychological development to these children. The third program is the active participation in combatting child trafficking in the Philippines.
Photographs courtesy of Bantay Bata 163