NBI urged to take down online pages promoting sexual exploitation of children

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020   •   528

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros has called on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to put a stop to social media pages that sexually exploit children following reports of continuing exploitation of children even amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In an open letter addressed to the NBI, Hontiveros said her office received reports that there are still pages on Facebook and other online sites that are actively posting indecent photos of female children.

“Nakarating sa opisina ko na mayroong mga Facebook pages kung saan naka-post ang napakaraming mahahalay na larawan ng mga babaeng bata. Matagal na ang mga Facebook page na ito ngunit active pa rin daw ang mga posts at groups,” she said.

“Ngayong COVID-19 pandemic, may mga reports na nagsasabing pwedeng mas dadami ang kaso ng online sexual exploitation of children. We need to be more vigilant and make sure that our children are safe and secure, online and offline,” she stressed.

Hontiveros appealed to the bureau to probe and takedown these pages, as well as find and prosecute the people behind these social media accounts.

“Nananawagan ako sa Bureau na imbestigahan at agarang i-take down ang mga Facebook pages na ito. Kailangan malaman din ng NBI kung sino-sino ang mga taong nagpapatakbo nito. Kailangang panagutin at ipakulong ang mga kriminal na nasa likod ng mga Facebook pages at online content na ito,” she stressed.

According to the senator, Facebook also needs to be made accountable for allowing these pages.

“The tech giant, with all its resources, should have technologies and mechanisms in place that prevent these kinds of pages from existing. Sobrang nakakabahala na hanggang ngayon, may mga ganito paring nangyayari sa platform na ito,” she said.

She also called on the public to remain vigilant in ending online sexual exploitation of children by reporting these pages to authorities.

“Kailangan nating protektahan ang online space bilang mga safe spaces. We need to make sure that our children are safe online, lalo na ngayong mas marami ang oras na ginugugol nila sa social media,” she said.

Hontiveros wants probe on retrenchment of nearly 500 Dole Philippines workers

Robie de Guzman   •   December 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday called on the government to look into the alleged irregularities in the mass retrenchment of nearly 500 regular workers of canned pineapple producer and exporter, Dole Philippines Inc. (Dolefil).

In a letter addressed to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Hontiveros said that the company has not suffered any substantial and imminent losses in recent years to legally retrench its workers, based on their latest Annual Audited Financial Statements.

She also questioned why the company filed the notice of retrenchment on September 18, 2020, three days after the actual termination of the workers.

The mass retrenchment also appeared to have been done in bad faith as the company prioritized the termination of a significant number of regular workers instead of contractual employees, she added.

“Nakakaalarma rin na sa kabila ng pagreregular nila sa nasa 5,000 employees noong 2018 bilang suporta sa kampanya ng gobyerno laban sa endo, nagpatuloy pa rin silang maghire ng contractual workers. This clearly belied the basis given for the retrenchment of its regular workers,” she said in a statement.

The senator called on the labor department to mediate between Dolefil and the retrenched workers to determine the company’s possible violations of labor laws and to bring forth “a mutually-acceptable solution to prevent a more serious labor dispute.”

Hontiveros likewise urged the department to look into other companies that might have been illegally dismissing their employees amid the pandemic.

“Ngayong maraming negosyo ang naapektuhan ng economic recession, huwag nating hayaang masangkalan ang kapakanan ng mga manggagawa. At the end of the day, workers’ welfare and rights should come first. They should always be our top priority,” she said.

Dolefil has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Bill seeking work benefits, incentives for Bantay Dagat volunteers filed at Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   November 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A bill seeking to grant incentives and work benefits for Bantay Dagat volunteers or “sea wardens” in the country has been filed at the Senate.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said she has filed Senate Bill No. 1919 or the Bantay Dagat Welfare and Incentives Act which aims to recognize accredited bantay dagat volunteers who are mostly town fisherfolks who work with local and national agencies in conserving, protecting, and managing the country’s marine resources.

“Our fisherfolk communities are at the frontlines of climate change. Sila ang unang-unang naapektuhan ng pagbabago sa klima, pati na ng mga negatibong epekto nito sa ating kalikasan,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“This gives all the more reason, to not only recognize their noble work, but also to provide tangible support. Bigyan natin ng dignidad ang kanilang ginagawa para sa ating bayan,” she added.

The bill seeks to entitle the volunteers to insurance and Philhealth coverage, hazard allowance, subsistence allowance, training and career enrichment programs, and access to loans.

It also aims to grant sea wardens the security of tenure, which means that they shall not be removed or terminated except for just and valid causes as determined by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The bill also mandates local government to allocate regular funding for Bantay Dagat volunteers and their operational requirements.

“The Bantay Dagat bill is an important step towards encouraging and giving recognition to the importance of community participation in the protection of our fisheries,” Hontiveros said.

“But government must further arm itself through modernizing and upping our defense capability towards the protection of Philippine waters. Nakahanda ang mga komunidad magbantay, palakasin din ang pagbabantay ng gobyerno,” she added.

Hontiveros also underscored the importance of installing Bantay Dagat volunteers especially within municipalities along contested waters, such as the West Philippine Sea, to aid in government surveillance efforts against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

The government must also beef up its capacity to ward off incursions in the WPS, she added.

NBI to probe killing of Manila RTC judge

Robie de Guzman   •   November 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday said it has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the case of a Manila court judge who was killed inside her office last Wednesday.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the NBI will probe “all possible angles and motives” and “make recommendations to the supreme court on improving security measures in all halls of justice, court rooms, and premises.”

Judge Maria Teresa Abadilla of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 45 was shot inside her chamber by her clerk of court, Atty. Amador Rebato, who allegedly shot himself during the incident.

She was rushed to a hospital but was declared dead.

“Though Judge Abadilla’s death appears to have arisen from an internal issue with her clerk of court, I have, nonetheless, directed the NBI to conduct a parallel probe considering that the incident has implications on the personal security of our judges and justices,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, welcomed Guevarra’s move.

“Pwede naman talaga investigate yung NBI because a crime has been committed. But we are also investigating and reviewing court policies,” Court Administrator Midas Marquez said.

He added that Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta has ordered the implementation of stricter measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring.

“The passing of Judge Abadilla is indeed a big loss to the judiciary because I personally know her to be an upright and highly competent magistrate,” Peralta said in a statement on Wednesday. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento

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