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Story on 'virtual 10-year-old Filipina girl' prompts Sen. Miriam to probe 'webcam child sex tourism'

Sweetie, a computer-generated image of a 10-year-old Filipina girl, was able to trap online pedophiles around the world. SCREENGRAB
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines - The photograph of Sweetie, a computer-generated 10-year-old Filipina girl, prompted Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to file a resolution urging the Senate to investigate reports that webcam child sex tourism has victimized thousands of children in the country.

“The measure needed to combat this new form of child exploitation,” Santiago said in Senate Resolution No. 346 filed recently.

Senate Resolution No. 346 directed the proper Senate committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the story posted in Interaksyon describing how Dutch authorities were able to identify at least 1,000 pedophiles on the Internet through the use of the virtual Filipina girl.

“In an article entitled ‘Computer-generated 10-year-old Filipina helps identify 1,000 online pedophiles’ posted on on 5 November 2013, Terre des Hommes Netherlands, a Dutch rights group, said it had identified over 1,000 pedophiles around the world by offering online sex with a computer-generated 10-year-old Filipina girl called Sweetie,” Santiago said.

According to the news portal of TV5, Sweetie was reportedly created by Terre des Hommes and deployed in Internet chat rooms from a remote building in Amsterdam. Within a 10-week period, over 20,000 predators from 71 countries approached Sweetie, asking for webcam sex performances.

Another news article, this time posted on on 4 November 2013, entitled "Dutch activists track alleged child abusers with Sweetie - a digital ‘girl',” the largest contingents of named suspects reportedly came from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany, Turkey, Italy, and the Netherlands. In all, Terre des Hommes identified suspects in 71 countries.

Santiago said that according to the rights group, it did not approach any one on the Internet but instead waited for people to approach Sweetie and ask for sex acts; they reportedly stopped the conversation as soon as someone offered Sweetie money for sex acts. In one exchange, a man named "Older4young," identified as a 35-year-old father of two from Atlanta in the United States, allegedly asked Sweetie to undress for $10.

The rights group, as quoted by Santiago, said that “while the researchers were chatting with Sweetie, they gathered information about her customers through social media; using the information, the researchers reportedly identified the abusers and passed the information on to police.”

Citing United Nations and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data, Santiago said that there are over 750,000 child predators online at any given moment.

Quoting Terre des Hommes, Santiago said, “the biggest problem is that the police do not take action until child victims file reports, but children almost never report these crimes. They have started an online petition to pressure governments to adopt proactive investigation policies. For instance, they want police around the world to have a mandate to actively patrol chat rooms where the abuse is taking place.”

Based on these data, Santiago said that the country should evaluate our laws to determine whether they adequately punish this largely unknown but quickly spreading new form of child exploitation known as webcam child sex tourism, which has victimized reportedly tens of thousands of children in the Philippines alone.

“There is a need to assess our law enforcement measures and investigation policies to combat webcam child sex tourism, and identify, prosecute, and punish the abusers and exploiters of children,” Santiago said.