In Manila, between 250,000 and 1 million children live in the streets, left to fend for themselves. the number of street children has increased considerably in recent years, this is unfortunately due to various factors: poverty, family structure, migration… Street children, from birth to 18 years, are completely on their own. They are particularly vulnerable to forced labor, child prostitution, sexual and physical abuse, early pregnancy and many of them show severe symptoms of depression and anxiety. Not all of the street children are orphans. They often live with their parents on the sidewalks of Manila.

Forced Labor

Child labor is work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. In the Philippines, there are 2.1 million child laborers aged 5-17 years old based on the 2011 Survey on Children  of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) . About 95% of the children are in hazardous work. 69% of these are aged 15-17 years old, beyond the minimum allowable age for work but still exposed to hazardous work.

Children in the Philippines engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, and in armed conflict. Children also perform dangerous tasks in agriculture and gold mining. The Survey on Children indicated that 3.2 million children ages 5 to 17 years engage in child labor, of which approximately 3 million engage in hazardous work. Table 1 provides key indicators on children’s work and education in the Philippines.

Table 1. Statistics on Children’s Work and Education
ChildrenAgePercent
Working (% and population)5 to 147.5 (1,549,677)
Working children by sector5 to 14
Agriculture54.1
Industry5.3
Services40.5
Attending School (%)5 to 1493.7
Combining Work and School (%)7 to 147.8
Primary Completion Rate (%)104.0

Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2016, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2019. 
Source for all other data: International Labor Organization’s analysis of statistics from Survey on Children (SOC), 2011. 

  • Work burdens the child; too heavy for child’s age and capabilities
  • Child works unsupervised or supervised by abusive adults
  • Very long hours of work; child has limited or no time for school, play or rest
  • Workplace poses hazards to child’s health and life
  • Child is subject to psychological, verbal, or physical/sexual abuse
  • Child is forced by circumstances or by coercive individuals to work
  • Limited or no positive rewards for the child
  • Child’s work is excluded from legislation, social security and benefits
  • Child’s work is used for exploitative, subversive or clandestine operations or disguised illegal activities

Child Prostitution

The use of children in illicit activities, specifically in the distribution, procuring, and selling of drugs, including a cheap methamphetamine known as shabu, has become a cause for concern in the Philippines. The government continued its anti-drug campaign, which began in 2016 and did not adequately protect children engaged in drug trafficking from inappropriate incarceration, penalties, or physical harm.  

Children, primarily girls, are trafficked domestically from rural communities to urban centers and tourist destinations for the purpose of domestic work and commercial sexual exploitation. Research indicates that the Philippines is the top global Internet source of online commercial sexual exploitation of children (OSEC). Children are induced to perform sex acts at the direction of paying foreigners and local Filipinos for live Internet broadcasts which usually take place in small Internet cafes, private homes, or windowless dungeon-like buildings commonly known as “cybersex dens.” According to data on OSEC victims collected by the International Justice Mission Philippines, the average age of victims was 16 to 18 years, and the median age of the victims at the time of rescue was 12. Additionally, according to the most recent available data from 2018 the Philippines Department of Justice’s Office of Cyber crimes reviewed over 576,000 reports of online child abuse and cyber crimes from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.    

A emerging crime in the Philippines, where thousands of youngsters are seen to be at risk exploited by online streaming of child sex abuse.

Credit: Channel News Asia

In Manila veteran chief of the Philippines Victor Lorenzo has spent much of his life chasing down criminals and helping their victims. For a law enforcer with years of experience, much of what he does is now routine.

Unfortunately with the emergence of cyber criminal activity there is one type of crime which the veteran chief of the Philippines’ cyber investigation unit has difficulty coming to terms with. 

“Every case is shocking,” Lorenzo said, in his office at the Cybercrime Division of the National Bureau of Investigation on Taft Avenue. A shiny figurine of Batman gleams amid piles of documents on his desk. Another busy day. Another suspect. More crimes. 

“No matter how hard you try to shield yourself from emotions, you just can’t. It’s very painful on our part as a human being whenever we see children performing live in front of a camera.”

Lorenzo was referring to the horrific growing number of child cybersex cases, where pedophiles based overseas disgustingly pay local traffickers that prey on unfortunate street children to molest and live-stream the sexual abuse. In some cases poor parents prostitute their children on the internet.

Meet Sweetie Computer Generated Predator Bait

Sweetie is a computer animated child that was created by children’s rights organization Terre des hommes as a sting operation. It was used to lure online sexual predators into providing personally-identifiable information, so that this information could then be reported to law enforcement agencies.


“Sweetie” lured hundreds of alleged pedophiles — including 254 Americans — into offering money to have the girl perform online sex acts, a group that fights child sex abuse Terre des Hommes said.

Although national and international laws ban online child sex tourism, Terre des Hommes claims only six perpetrators have been convicted of this crime, which appears to be the latest trend in online child exploitation

Albert Jaap Van Santbrink, the group’s director said “If we were able to identify 1,000 individuals in just two and a half months last summer, think how many of these people could be identified if governments took a more active approach,” he also said “Most Americans have also been recorded from the webcam, so we can actually see who they are and see their family pictures in the background,That’s the scariest part. They are fathers, husbands, partners, ordinary people you meet every day.” This is huge considering the number of predators this organization has taking off the street preventing them from engaging in sexual exploitation of Filipino children.

Suspected pedophiles are tricked into believing they are engaging in an perverted online chat with a 10-year-old girl from the Philippines named Sweetie, when in fact they are conversing with a team of four researches in the outskirts of Amsterdam.

The criminals find these children through social media websites and chat rooms, then they use untraceable prepaid credit cards and online aliases to get victims to perform sexual acts.

Street Children Recruited By Terrorist

Child soldiering by non-government militias and terrorist organizations, predominately in the southern island of Mindanao, remains a concern. In Marawi City, many children as young as age 7 were recruited, paid, and trained as fighters by the Maute Group, a terrorist organization linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Additionally, research suggests that the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Moro National Liberation Front, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the New People’s Army continue to recruit children from schools for use as human shields, cooks, and fighters, while offering religious education and material incentives to join.

Photo by Viktor Forgacs 

Why are children recruited?
The reasons for the recruitment of children by terrorist and violent extremist groups are complex and multifaceted, and they may vary depending on the situation. It also appears that children are not merely recruited alongside adults, but are specifically targeted, as the use of children provides various advantages to the groups.

The demographic shift in poor countries, in part an increase in the percentage of street children fending for themselves in the overall population, makes the street children in the Philippines available for recruitment and abduction. For instance, in each of the countries affected by the Boko Haram crisis, children constitute over 50%, and in certain cases 60%, of the overall population. Numerous bombings have been carried out in and around Metro Manila, though several hundred kilometers from the conflict in the southern regions, due to its political importance. In the period from 2000 to 2007 attacks killed nearly 400 Filipino civilians and injured well over 1500 more, which is more casualties than what is caused by bombings and other attacks in Indonesia, Morocco, Spain, Turkey, or Britain during the same period.

This is not just about European or American children being victims of attacks by the so-called Islamic State. Young people who are victims of Western military attacks are being used as pawns in the fight against terrorism too. strictly propaganda look back a few years back at US president Donald Trump’s disastrous first military operation. The January 29 raid on the village of al-Ghayil in Yemen saw 25 civilians killed, including nine children. While the White House has insisted that it obtained “valuable information” from the operation – which was intended to gather intelligence on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – no evidence has been produced in support of this claim. the children in Yemen still suffer from the conflicts.

In addition, any evaluation of an operation’s success must also consider its secondary effects. In particular, how they supply groups like AQAP and IS with ammunition for their propaganda

Propaganda is a huge part of how organisations like AQAP and IS motivate those looking to support them. AQAP in particular relies on social media and its online magazine, Inspire, to encourage readers to launch attacks. Children are used as tools of propaganda – the killing of children by Western bombings is repeatedly used to promote its cause. In its very first issue three explicit photographs of dead children were printed, and this method continued up to and including the most recent issue in November 2016.

The sole purpose of these disturbing images is to stir anger and frustration among both existing and potential sympathisers, in order to justify attacks on the West.

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