In the third and final episode of the Digital Sex Crimes in Asia podcast series, four journalists and a filmmaker share insights and their own experiences during and after their coverage of image-based abuse and the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC).

This podcast series is produced in collaboration with ABS-CBN and supported by the Judith Neilson Institute’s Asian Stories project. It is part of a multi-platform reportage on OSEC, which also includes a four-part investigative report published on the PCIJ website and an hour-long documentary on the ABS-CBN News Channel.






 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  Hello, and welcome to “On the Record,” the podcast of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. 

You are listening to the third and final episode of a special series on digital sex crimes, particularly the online sexual exploitation of children, or OSEC. 

This podcast series is produced in collaboration with ABS-CBN News, with support from Sydney-based Judith Neilson Institute — a non-partisan, independent group that supports quality journalism across the globe. 

We are joined today by journalists and storytellers who are reporting on this issue: PCIJ fellow and Philippine STAR reporter Neil Servallos, who has written a four-part investigative report on OSEC; ABS-CBN News correspondent Chiara Zambrano and segment producer Rowena Cos, and independent filmmaker Pabelle Manikan, who produced a television documentary on the subject. And I am Cherry Salazar, PCIJ’s multimedia reporter, presenter of this podcast series.

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  Let’s start with how you were introduced to the subject of OSEC. Start tayo sa ating, ano, only thorn among the roses. 

 Neil Servallos, PCIJ fellow:  I was a new reporter. In late 2018, my editors sent me a press release about a rescue operation in Taguig, and it was an OSEC case. I didn’t know what it was back then. Medyo limited pa ‘yung mga alam ko about crimes. It was very disturbing for me in the sense that I didn’t expect mothers would be capable of doing such things.

And then one day, one of my first coverages as a reporter was (a) forum on OSEC. And that’s when I understood ‘yung scale ng issue, like the technological side, the financial side, that it is transnational, and it’s poverty-driven. Kulang ng social safety nets ‘yung impoverished communities that’s why they’re being pushed to the extremes na gagawin nila ito sa mga anak nila. That was ‘yung start, para sa akin, nung interes ko about OSEC and digital crimes in general.

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  How about you, Wena? Is this your first OSEC story?

 Rowena Cos, ABS-CBN segment producer:  Yes, definitely. First ko siya, tapos hindi ko alam kung nagulat ba ako or hindi, pero definitely disturbed ako dun sa mga natuklasan ko.

Before kaming mag-start ng shoot, may idea na ako what to expect. Pero ‘yung makita mo siya or like, to hear about it firsthand, ‘yung malaman mo na nangyayari pala talaga siya at eto, eto, totoong tao siya na gumawa nu’n, at eto, totoong bata siya. Totoong biktima siya. Nakakalula, nakakalula yung feeling.

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  How about you, Pabs?

 Pabelle Manikan, independent filmmaker:  Alam ko na ‘yung OSEC kasi nababasa ko siya online sa mga news. Pero ever since kasi I made a documentary about women and prostitution, naging interested ako sa paggagawa ng kwento focusing on women and children. 

Nanood na ako ng mga documentaries online to have an idea. Ang nakikita ko, madalas foreigners ‘yung gumagawa. More on locals na nakikita ko, galing sa news. So feeling ko malaking factor din na ang magkukuwento rin ay mga locals, tayo mismo, at naiintindihan natin kung ano ang sitwasyon na nangyayari bilang tayo ay tagarito. Naiintindihan ‘yung mga nuances ng mga tao.


 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  Ikaw, Chiara? With about a decade in the industry, is this your first time or first encounter sa OSEC? 

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  I think the first time I ever even thought about these things is when I was a young researcher and I was just tasked to help in a story about child pornography. All I saw was a video clip of evidence showing child pornography.

And looking back now, I realize that I never forgot that clip. That’s really how disturbing, how dark this is. Even without you processing how dark it is, it hits you so deeply. Di ba?

There’s no getting used to this. And I guess that’s only right, di ba. I think that informs our movement. But this is definitely the first time that I went deep to the world of OSEC.

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  I think my first trafficking story was way back when I was producing documentaries for (ABS-CBN). We had this documentary on trafficking that introduced me to OSEC pero at that time, it wasn’t as big an issue as it is now, pero alam mong nangyayari talaga siya. Ever since naman nu’n, I think that was around 2016, I’ve been following OSEC cases so lagi kaming nagko-communicate ng IJM (International Justice Mission) and other interviewees and case studies from before kasi nga iniisip ko at some point, I will want to do this na mas deeper.

So natutuwa ako kasi pagdating ko ng PCIJ, it has this OSEC project that’s in collaboration with ABS-CBN and with STAR kung saan din ako nanggaling before. But yup, OSEC is really an important subject and I know it’s kind of uncomfortable to also talk about it which makes it all the more important that we discuss these things. 

OSEC naman is a global issue and the Philippines is at the epicenter of this issue, so we’re collaborating, trying to pool our resources for a comprehensive take, looking at different angles of OSEC. We have text stories care of Neil that are published in the PCIJ website. We have an hour-long documentary that airs on ABS-CBN. And we have this podcast series.

Pero iniisip ko rin there are limitations definitely when it comes to the platforms that we have.

 Neil Servallos, PCIJ fellow:  I think that’s the biggest issue for me, ‘yung daily grind. Plus nagga-grad school din po ako. Ang ginagawa ko ay nagle-legwork ako madalas pagka free time.

Long-forms, ganito ‘yung mga gusto kong istorya talaga like ever since pero we can’t, kumbaga, manage kasi, you know, I have to keep up with my day job, like I have bills to pay and stuff like that. But you know, ‘yung opportunity din na ‘to with PCIJ, it opened a lot of doors for me, like gave me purpose na alam ko na ang gagawin ko in the future, na I know what I want to write. I know how I want to write it. And I developed a lot of other skills that I think could be useful with the paper din. I’m going to ease in the desk na kumbaga maging inclined sila towards publishing these kinds of stories.

We’re in the future now. Crimes are happening on social media now, and it’s an open secret and dark web ganyan, ‘yun ‘yung kumbaga naging purpose ko ngayong after nitong reporting project. Na hindi siya natatapos dito and I hope to keep writing about digital crimes not only against children and women. Digital crimes in a general sense.

Saka feeling ko mas— ‘yung alam mo ‘yun, mga storya na sinulat ko the past six months, di niya matitimbangan ‘yung apat na storya na lalabas na ‘to.

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  It’s a familiar feeling, di ba. And it just reflects on the nature of beast that is journalism. So ‘yung struggle mo, Neil, struggle ko iyan. Struggle iyan ng maraming journalist who want to just stick to one thing and dig deeper because stories like these need space. 

There has to be at least one person who stops and stays and digs. Di ba? There are other people who can keep roving and you know, alam mo ‘yun, catch the small stories that will turn out bigger in the long run, but there’s so much value to staying with stories like this. 

But anyway, dun sa limitations ng documentary, I feel pinakanahihirapan kami. Kasi we are the visual team.

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  It’s also a touchy subject. You can’t just put out the names or the faces of the victims. How do you deal with those challenges?

 Pabelle Manikan, independent filmmaker:  When you tell a story, especially in documentaries, you show, you don’t tell, to make it strong. But here (laughs) we have nothing to show. So ‘yun ‘yung challenge niya.

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  There are more things that you can’t show than there are things that you can. Bukod pa dun sa mga bagay that you can talk about and can’t.

In every scene, in every person that we’re putting in the timeline, there’s a conversation. Do we show his or her face? What impact will it bring to them if their neighbor’s watching? What impact will it have to their child if someone sees them and tells them about it na, “Oh, your parents are talking about your story”? Do we blur? Do we not blur? Is this whole documentary gonna be blurred? (laughs) Alam mo ‘yun. Pero ‘yun nga, always the decision is what’s best for the child.

 Rowena Cos, ABS-CBN segment producer:  ‘Yung mahirap is ‘yung pagka-multi-faceted niya as a topic. Pag pasok mo kasi thinking about OSEC, you think about the parents, the guardians, the mother, the father as the villains of the story. 

You also have to consider, what’s the role of the rest of the family? What’s the role of the community? Ta’s parang at some point, are we doing this topic justice? Kasi sobrang daming nangyayari. Nailalatag ba natin lahat ng kailangan ilatag para maintindihan ng mga tao ‘yung kailangan nilang maintindihan (about) such a complex and sensitive topic. It’s a challenge but it’s also an eye-opener kasi we have this child, a very very innocent being, ta’s andaming factors pala ‘yung dahilan kung bakit nawawala ‘yung innocence nung batang ‘to. 

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  And I think we all agree that OSEC is also underreported, which I think brings us to the strength of this collaborative project kasi we are working on three different platforms and we’re able to approach this subject nang iba-iba ‘yung issues na tinitingnan natin. (For) PCIJ and ABS-CBN, this is also our first collab.

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  Because there is so much to talk about, about OSEC, the fact that we’re collaborating and approaching this from different angles, gives me a sense of peace that our team can stay at this level. 

Because I know that si Neil, PCIJ are the ones talking about solutions, statistics, other problem areas, we can very easily say at the end that if you want to know more about other things, then we have our other collaborators. The macro and the micro approaches of the collaboration are really complementing each other. Let’s say someone reads Neil’s pieces and they want to know more about the kids and the mother, they can watch our documentary and meet them and hear their voices. You don’t get that all the time. Usually if you tell a story, it’s all on you. And you sometimes fall into that trap of wanting to say everything and sacrificing everything in the process. That’s the biggest value for me.

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  We would like to see definitely more of these efforts because, at the end of the day, we just want to get the story out. And tulad ng sinabi ni Chiara kanina, sometimes, we fall into that dilemma of wanting to say so much pero limited ‘yung print space, limited ‘yung airtime, and sometimes you have to kill some parts of (the story) even if we think they’re important, which I think this collaborative effort also addressed. 

So ako naman, when doing the podcast, I’m also looking at ano ba ‘yung nasabi na ni Neil sa kanyang articles? What is the perspective that the docu is pushing? Tapos I will go na, “Ano pa ba ‘yung hindi nila likely na-discuss?”

 Neil Servallos, PCIJ fellow:  it was very important for me na I was able to work with women kasi this is a gender issue e, di ba. How do we make it gender-sensitive? Lalo na lalaki ‘yung magsusulat, which is ano, ha, very big dilemma for me nung umpisa. Lalo ‘yung part two kasi it’s about image-based abuse pa rin siya pero it’s more of about women and underage girls, mga teens, ganyan. Revenge porn. So how do I write about that? How do I interview a woman who was victimized by a guy?

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  Oo, and this project is cross-border kasi we’re collaborating with SCMP, where Neil contributed reporting. We’re collaborating with Tempo of Indonesia; we’re collaborating with Korea Times.

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  ‘Yung collaborating with regional partners, it just gives the story a lot more power. It’s different organizations from different countries, standing up and saying the same thing: that this is important, you should stop and you should listen. 

 Neil Servallos, PCIJ fellow:  If there’s one thing I learned in international journalism, it’s that important ‘yung role na pine-play ng outsiders. I was able to work with Raquel Carvalho of South China Morning Post. Dun ko na-realize ‘yung importance ng collaborative efforts with people from outside the country, na it takes one outsider to tell you that something’s wrong.

Para sa akin, ang ganda nung collaboration din na ‘to kasi di ba, borderless ang internet. Plus Asia where kumbaga tumataas na ‘yung presence sa internet. Inspiring na may ganitong collaborative effort, and I think this is the first time na nakita ko siya.

 Rowena Cos, ABS-CBN segment producer:  First time ko kasi actually to have a lot of partners doing docus. And initially, na-bombard ako with so many things and so many people pero at the same time, na-appreciate ko rin ‘yung part na maraming information na pinangagalingan at saka maraming guidance din. Kasi I think kung mag-isa lang kami dito, we might have stepped on a lot of toes along the way. Pero dahil marami kami, marami tayo, sama-sama natin siyang ginawa, parang all of our knowledge put together, we were able to approach a very sensitive topic in the best way that was possible considering all of the elements involved. So ‘yun. Thankful ako, dun sa (laughs) napaka-showbiz nung thankful ako. (laughs)

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  Pero over the course of producing these stories, what is it about OSEC that surprised you the most?

 Neil Servallos, PCIJ fellow:  Siguro para sa akin ‘yung epekto niya sa kids, ‘yung risk niya na ma-replicate siya sa iba. It’s a very new concept to me, itong sexual abuse at a very young age na pag hindi pala siya— di sila nabigyan ng proper intervention there’s a very high risk na ma-replicate, ma-replicate ito sa— kumbaga pagtanda nila, sila na ‘yung gagawa nito sa iba. 

Aside from that, ‘yung interventions for me. Na-surprise ako na may mga ganito pala. Halimbawa, ‘yung sa Preda meron sila ‘yung emotional release therapy. I was able to watch ‘yung kumbaga saan sila ginagawa and, well, it was distressing to watch pero nakakaginhawa din siya kasi makikita mo after they do that, parang ang gaan-gaan na nung pakiramdam niya.

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  What really weighs heavy on me is how this just shatters your worldview and just breaks apart what you thought is a very basic, unassailable notion of family. Motherhood and love, basic iyan e. Ang nanay gagawin ang lahat para protektahan ang anak. Ako, I usually tell stories of conflict so I thought I’d already seen the worst in humanity but this is a whole other shade of darkness that I wasn’t prepared for.

 Pabelle Manikan, independent filmmaker:  Tapos syempre ‘yung surprising part is also seeing the footage. Dun talaga ako— dun ko na-realize talaga, oh my gosh. 

Ilang days talaga ako, na-trauma din talaga ako sa kanya. Sobrang tulala ako, may flashes siya sa isip mo e. Bigla mo lang talaga siya naalala. So iisipin mo na kung ako, napanood ko lang itong mga evidences, paano pa kaya ‘yung mga taong pinagdaanan ‘to?

From there on, na-realize ko na hindi ito joke. It’s a big responsibility to tell this story.

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  Ta’s surprising din how not black and white this is. But when you first think about this, okay, ang mali dito ‘yung foreign client saka ‘yung magulang na ginagawa ito, di ba. Sobrang dali. But every time we go out, every time we meet someone else, it breaks apart your preconceived notions again. Na teka lang, “Nasaan nga ba ‘yung mga tatay? Where were you when all of this was happening?” And then you hear his side. Na “I wasn’t there, I was working. And what do I do now?” We have wives who are facilitators, and their children are the victims, so where does the father stand? There are new questions every time we go out and meet someone new

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  Which also reminds me of this interview I had with a social worker. She said something like, there are no willing victims, parang everybody is forced by the circumstances they are in. And when I say willing victims, it’s not necessarily just the children. Sometimes it’s also the facilitators. It may be trauma that’s unprocessed from when they were children themselves. Or it may be how they were raised at ‘yun ‘yung nakita nilang way of coping sa maybe lack of income. There’s a milieu of like factors contributing to this. Pero siguro for me, what’s surprised me the most na hanggang ngayon bothered pa rin ako at hindi ko siya maisipan ng ibang sagot or like ita-try ko siya i-rationalize is the the two-month-old baby na na-rescue sa isang raid. 

Hindi ko maisip how would you do it to a two-month-old. Two-month-old! Parang hindi pa nga yata nagla-latch sa finger ‘yun, di ko sure. Wala akong alam sa babies. ‘Yun ‘yung pinakamasakit for me during sa course ng paggawa nito, pagbuo nitong project na ‘to. 

 Rowena Cos, ABS-CBN segment producer:  Ako, kinakabahan ako mag-share kasi nararamdaman kong malapit na akong umiyak. (laughs) Uh, feeling ko kasi bilang journalist tayo, ‘no, parang meron tayong self-preservation mechanism para hindi ka na masyado nasha-shock with all the stories that you encounter on the daily basis or the bad things that are happening. Iniisip mo na okay, ready ka na sa kahit anong masamang bagay na mae-encounter mo. Pero meron pa rin pala, meron pa rin palang mas, mas something.

For example, nung ‘yung pagka-open secret crime niya. Nung naghahanap ako ng mai-interview na family, I went to this city. And then I talked to this barangay secretary. Shinare niya sa akin, ni secretary na, “Ah, oo. Alam ko nga may mga gumagawa niyan dito.” Nagulat ako kasi parang, who’s to say who else is involved there? And the fact that you can talk about it quite openly and so casually. Maiisip mo gaano pa ba talaga siya kalaganap? Parang every time titingin ka sa labas, sino pa ba ‘yung biktima dyan? Sino pa ba ‘yung nangangailangan ng tulong tapos parang ang bigat. 

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  I was introduced I think to OSEC and sexual abuse of children sometime in 2016. I was so stressed doon sa mga nai-interview because aside from the footages and the images that you have for, for the production of the documentary, dahil nga visual ‘yung platform na ‘yun, I was also reading the cases mismo which can be very, very descriptive.

During that time I was having nightmares and really, really bad nightmares talaga siya, which eventually led me to doing therapy sa sarili ko. And then I found out that apparently I had some kind of similar experiences in the past, in my younger years, so para siyang Pandora’s box na na-open because I was doing this story. So in a way, it helped me and the way I approach similar stories because I feel like I can, in a way, empathize with what the survivor may be feeling or I have a certain kind of understanding dun sa paano siya dine-describe ng social worker, the effect of this kind of trauma. But I also want to know, kasi ako, I have similar experiences, pero I’m wondering how does it affect you? For a long time, we haven’t been talking about the mental, emotional, psychological toll on storytellers mismo.

And secondhand trauma is a real and serious concern, even if we don’t openly discuss it or even if we refuse to talk about it for whatever reason.

 Rowena Cos, ABS-CBN segment producer:  Nagpapatugtog kami ng BTS. Charot. (laughs)

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  True, true story. Di, uhm, ano ba? Para siyang papitik-pitik, especially when I’m with the kids. After we took a footage of a raid of an OSEC case, the case officers, the social workers were doing the paperwork, and the kids that they rescued, they were still there. And we were there so we were playing with the kids. I was trying to be useful. Parang, how to not make this heavy on the child. “Do you need someone to walk with?” “Oh, do you wanna see that tree?”

Ta’s I remember this little boy sabi niya, “Baby shark, baby shark.” Sayaw daw ng Baby Shark. Syempre may pamangkin ako, alam ko dance steps sa Baby Shark. So, “Sige, sayaw tayo ng Baby Shark.” So ayan na, sinimulan ko na. “Baby shark, doo-doo-doo-doo.” Tapos sabi nung bata, “Sasayaw na ako, labas mo na cellphone.” Tapos I felt it in the pit of my stomach na para akong, napaupo ako. For all I know it could be nothing. It could just be, he wanted to a fun thing with the phone but it could also be something else. It’s so hard to process.

And even the social workers say sometimes, “Yes, they’re happy, they’re giggly, and they’re cute. But there are days and there are nights when we ourselves are surprised by the things they do and the damage that manifests.” I don’t think I’ll ever forget those moments. 

 Rowena Cos, ABS-CBN segment producer:  It’s also a chance to check the privilege that we have. Being the people that we are na ako, na-encounter ko ‘yung ganitong stories, na-disturb ako. I can go to my counselor. I have my counselor that can help me process the feelings. And then, makikita natin, ako lang ‘yun. Na nakarinig ng kwento nila, na nakakita ng nangyari sa kanila. Pero what about these children, these families who were the one who directly experienced it. Parang sila, meron ba silang resources that we have? 

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  Just talking about this, like kami, pagkatapos namin ng shoot, nag-uusap kami talaga, ‘no. Kumusta ka? 

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  Debriefing?

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  Oo, debriefing. Sabay ‘yung process of how we put this story together and how are we doing right now. Kaya it’s been really helpful for me na it’s an all-women team, and a lot of people that we’ve spoken to are women. I haven’t raised a finger on it but there’s something, there’s something there. There’s a, a level of empathy that’s shared.

 Neil Servallos, PCIJ fellow:  Para sa akin, it’s very traumatic and it also did not help na wala akong makausap about it. I deal with my past traumas using unhealthy ways like (laughs) smoking, drinking. Di ko pa rin siya napa-process hanggang ngayon pero nagma-manifest siya in a lot of ways that I can’t explain why. Like halimbawa, minsan di na ako makatulog. Kasagsagan ‘to ng nung naghahanap ako ng networks of CSAM (child sexual abuse materials) dun sa Reddit and ‘yun nga, may nahanap ako. 

Nagalit ako. Di ko din ma-explain pero nagagalit talaga ako. Dati ano naman ako, like aware naman ako bakit grabe ‘yung hatred sa straight men, like “men are trash,” mga ganun. Pamilyar na ako bakit siya nangyayari. And, parang ngayon mas na ano na ako na, “Oo nga ‘no, **** *** nga naming lahat.” (laughs)

Di ko in-expect na ganito ‘yung magiging ending or may mae-encounter akong ganito. Like akala ko lang talaga it’s going to be an explainer. I don’t have to deal with the images. Pero it just so happened na I had to and because of that, parang since ang dami nga nitong networks na ‘to, parang it’s become my mission na to expose them. 

How do I deal with my trauma? Ayun, smoking. I also ano — I also consumed a lot of Korean media. Iyan, mga variety shows and kasi fan ako ng Itzy. (laughs) Ayan, one, two—

Everyone:  Laughter.

 Neil Servallos, PCIJ fellow:  And yeah, thank you po for this opportunity. Dito ko first time nasabi na meron akong pinagdaanan. Ayun, thank you po. Salamat sa pakikinig sa aking TED Talk. 

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  Neil, punta ka na dito. Manood tayo ng mga Korean. Mag-ano tayo, BTS-Itzy cross-over. (laughs)

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  Gusto kong sabihin wala akong kahit sinong Korean kyeme, paano ako magko-cope? Wala akong Korean cheverloo. (laughs)

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  It’s never, it’s never too late, Cherry. 

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  (laughs)

 Pabelle Manikan, independent filmmaker:  Right now, ‘yung effect niya sa akin is I’m more careful with the kids I’m around with. Pag nakikita ko sila, ta’s parang in my head, questions like, “Oh, my God. How safe are these kids in their homes?”

Kasi sa bahay, may mga tatlong batang nakatira dito. So pag hawak nila ‘yung gadgets nila, parang worried ako e. So ever since we started this project, lagi ko silang nire-remind, “Ingat kayo online.”

Parang effect sa akin, awareness talaga. Kung ito ang effect sa akin, ito ‘yung gusto kong mangyari sa maraming tao.

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  The awareness is also something you can also spread to other people. What I do is I also warn friends who have children.

“Okay, just try to look every once in a while sa social media, who are their friends? Who are adding them on Facebook?” Mga ganyang bagay. Because you never know. And sometimes naman the facilitators are also the people who are outside the family but people they still trust. So minsan ‘yun din, wina-warn ko ‘yung Ate ko, halimbawa, or ‘yung ibang friends na, parang, “O, ha, ‘yung anak mo bantayan mo kasi masyadong, like, touchy. Sure ka ba sa mga niyayakap niya and everything? Parang after this particular meet-up, will they still hang out?”

 Rowena Cos, ABS-CBN segment producer:  ‘Yung isang line ng interview namin with WCPC, parang na-encapsulate niya ‘yung nangyari. (chuckles) Sabi niya, “Dati ang tingin ko sa internet, simple lang. Pero ngayon, ang tingin ko sa internet, parang ang dumi-dumi na niya.”

Kapag nasa park ako, nakikita ko ‘yung mga bata na pre-teens, nagti-Tiktok sila ta’s you know how the steps are, so parang naiisip ko na, “Sino pa ba ‘yung tumitingin ng mga videos na yun? Is it really just for innocent entertainment? Is it really just a dance? Sino’ng nagse-save nun? Saang parte siya ng internet kumakalat?”

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  Pag nasa field kasi, makara ako sa mga bata. Pinapanood ko silang naglalaro, and a lot of children here in the Philippines are very affectionate, open to hugs, and I hug back. ‘Yung guguluhin mo ‘yung buhok nila ta’s minsan may kakandong sa’yo, kakandungin mo naman or aakbayan mo. Now, I don’t know, do I do that still? 

Ikaw ‘yung nagpu-pull back e, na parang yayakapin ko ba siya or, sige, apir na lang, or baka di rin dapat ‘yung apir kasi physical contact ‘yun. Or guluhin ko na lang ‘yung buhok niya pero di, parang intimate din ‘yun. So ako parang, you’re just weirdly standing there, calculating your moves ta’s wala na ‘yung bata. (laughs) 

 Neil Servallos, PCIJ fellow:  Mahilig kasi ako sa bata. Ngayon ko lang na-realize na oo nga, kailangan ko nga, kailangan ko maging careful sa pag-deal with kids, ganyan. Like, ako kasi medyo touchy like kinukurot ko, ganyan. O di kaya binubuhat ko.

It’s sad for me na my life’s changed forever. Pero it’s a good thing na rin na, di ba, parang you have another purpose, na you have to protect these kids’ smiles, their futures. You have to make sure that this does not happen to anyone else.

Pabelle Manikan, independent filmmaker: May comfort sa akin na maraming taong gumagawa at nagtatrabaho para patigilin ito. Parang ito na lang ‘yung pinaka-hope, pinaka-something that I hold on to.

 Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN correspondent:  There’s this cliched saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Now I realize na it also takes a village to break a child apart. And consequently, it’s everyone’s responsibility to fix them. And to make sure that no other children will be broken the same way.

The kids deserve better, my God. These kids deserve so much better than this. And it’s on us all to fix this world for them.

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  Siguro I’m more of an idealist. There’s this study, I think, parang psychological framework. If there is at least one caregiver, ‘yun ‘yung term na ginagamit, that gives this child the love, the care, the guidance, that the child deserves, a child can cope.

There is always hope naman din. There will be scars, of course, pero you can still live a meaningful life and it may not always be beautiful but it can always still be filled with meaning.

 Rowena Cos, ABS-CBN segment producer:  I think it’s also hopeful that we’re doing this project and that we’re bringing it to the level of more people, the public knowing about it. Mas nagiging pamilyar na ang mga tao sa dangers of the internet.

 Neil Servallos, PCIJ fellow:  Ako talaga kasi ay gusto ko maging watchdog lahat ng social media users, internet users because millions of images are being spread online and all of these kids are screaming for help or don’t even know what’s being done to them is wrong.

Are we going to allow them to stay in secret rooms forever? We have to act as watchdogs na when we encounter things like this in Twitter, mga nagpe-peddle ng mga ganitong imagery, let’s help. Let’s report them para mahanap natin kung nasaan sila. And you know, lift them from the abuse that they have been suffering for God knows how long.

I want this series, kumbaga jumping off point for people to start taking this issue, to dealing with this issue the way that it ought to be: na multi-sectoral. Collaborative. Di lang sisihan. Start discussions that’s going to be productive, and conversations that’s going to save these kids from abuse. 

 Cherry Salazar, PCIJ multimedia reporter:  This wraps up PCIJ’s special podcast series on the online sexual exploitation of children.

This podcast is part of “Asian Stories” — a cross-border investigative collaboration among PCIJ, ABS-CBN News, the South China Morning Post, the Korea Times, and Tempo of Indonesia.

If you want to learn more about the extent of OSEC and efforts being done to curb it, you may check PCIJ’s website,, for our multi-part investigative report.

The ABS-CBN News Channel will air a documentary on this issue, entitled “What Mama Said.” Catch the airing on Saturday, July 10, at 10 p.m. on ANC, Sky Cable, and other cable affiliates.

If you found this podcast informative, feel free to share it on social media and subscribe to our channel.

Follow us, too, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at pcijdotorg. That’s pcij d-o-t o-r-g.

Stay tuned for the next episodes of “On The Record.” This has been Cherry Salazar. Thank you for listening. 



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