MANILA – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Sunday called for heightened protection of students against sexual exploitation and other forms of child abuse as the world celebrates the International Day of Education.

"Protection of young people from all forms of abuse is among the obligations of the state. A holistic approach in ensuring the protection of children from all forms of abuse also includes ensuring that they are well-informed of their rights and that they receive proper psychosocial support from their teachers and parents," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.

De Guia cited data acquired by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that online sexual exploitation of children "spiked by over 260 percent" during the lockdowns imposed due to the pandemic.

She added that the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s (AMLC) findings showed the doubling rates of suspicious transactions involving child pornography from the PHP65.8 million reported in 2019 to transactions worth PHP113.1 million reported in the first half of 2020.

"Even more concerning are the alleged reports of a ‘Christmas sale’ of sensual photos and videos sold by students on social media sites for as little as PHP150 to help raise funds for distance learning-related expenses," de Guia said.

CHR called on the Department of Education (DepEd) and various schools to continue ramping up efforts on child protection against cases of abuse and exploitation.

De Guia said the National Telecommunications Commission should remain vigilant in ensuring that internet service providers (ISPs) block access to all websites carrying child pornography materials.

"Failure of ISPs or reluctance to comply to measures that combat online sexual exploitation of children must be sanctioned," she added.

Meanwhile, de Guia said teachers should also be given support as the country shifted to blended learning during the pandemic.

"As teaching shifts heavily to online means, the government must ensure that communication allowances to teachers are provided or reimbursed in a timely manner," she said.

"For those pursuing learning offline due to limits in internet connectivity, the delivery of modules should be done more efficiently without compromising teachers’ safety towards guaranteeing that every child with no access to the internet is not deprived of education," she added.

De Guia said CHR also cited DepED's psychosocial support and training provided for parents, teachers, and school heads amid the prevailing public health crisis.

DepEd’s initiative aims to teach parents, teachers, and non-teaching personnel to protect the health, safety, and well-being of their children, she added.

"The filling of Senate Bill 735 or the Human Trafficking Preventive Education Program Act by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, which aims to orient Filipino children on their rights and vital protection measures against OSEC, is a welcome move towards this endeavor," de Guia said. (PNA)