Jul 16, 2007

Edu declares war vs child pornography

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The sight is revolting. A girl in her early teens sits half naked, her legs spread apart. Another girl, even younger and in ponytail, stares at you while a suggestive photo (too lurid for the minds of our decent readers) is shown right beside her.

Beside these despicable videos is another shocker: Animation films showing child porn.

It’s so sickening, it makes you want to throw up in disgust.

But these are the kinds of photos plastered on videos sold alongside such GP viewing fare as Mr. Bean in malls found in Makati, Pasig and others where OMB (Optical Media Board) agents recently went to conduct lightning raids. The raids yielded a big harvest of child pornography in video format.

Adding insult to injury, these malls are near schools and churches where impressionable minds converge. That’s why OMB Chair Edu Manzano, OMB Executive Director, lawyer Rosendo Meneses, and Cyrus Paul Valenzuela, OMB’s Legal Department OIC, have decided to move. They know it will take ages if they file a case against child pornographers as OMB officials. Technicalities (e.g. under whose jurisdiction the case will fall under) will get in the way.

“The videos, some of them showing Filipino children, are sent and replicated abroad,” Edu reports. “I can easily tell which videos are replicated abroad and which are not.”

True enough, some videos carry titles in Chinese characters.

So he, Meneses and Valenzuela decided to do it the fastest way they know how. They have decided to file cases against child pornographers as private individuals. Thus, the case will henceforth be known as People of the Philippines vs Child Pornographers.

This way, they avoid getting bogged down by red tape that usually delays a case for months, even years, on end. This way, child pornographers who prey on innocent children for profit will get what they deserve, faster. The criminal offense will put the peddler of child porn behind bars for at least six years and at most 12 years.

Edu and company have also launched a signature campaign starting with members of media they presented the grim facts to. The campaign will spread to a much wider sector and surely earn massive support against heartless child predators.

The OMB is also inviting everyone to check out its website, www.omb.gov.ph, for updates on anti-child pornography campaign.

Edu and company have sought help from concerned agencies like the Social Welfare and Development Department, the Philippine National Police and Bantay Bata. They are also looking into other sources of help, like the Education Department, schools and even Friendster, the favorite medium of today’s youth, to spread the word and sound the alarm, louder, for all the world to hear.

The battle is far from easy. Meneses reports that the owner of a store peddling child pornography hit him with a Monobloc chair during one of the raids. Violence is as real as the carton-full of pornographic materials OMB men seize raid after raid.

“We deploy moles who first survey the place. Then we make our move,” Meneses loosely describes their strategy.

In the provinces, OMB operatives (only 15 nationwide) travel by sea (the agency has little finances, that’s why) as advance party. The minute Edu arrives the airport, there is no time to lose. He goes straight to the place where the raid will be conducted.

Sometimes, these weekend sorties entail only an overnight stay, enabling Edu to be back in Manila the very next day.

The threats that come with the job have become so common, they have become nothing to him. In fact, he has learned to live with them all these years.

“I sleep soundly at night. I’m in by 8:30 p.m. and wake up at 3 a.m. I have no worries. I believe that if it’s your time, it’s your time,” Edu explains.

He is at his OMB office at 8 a.m., signs all the papers himself, answers calls from MalacaƱang and other offices. He leaves the office at 5 p.m., then hies off to ABS-CBN, where he tapes Pilipinas: Game KNB twice a week, 6 to 10 p.m.

The arrangement, Edu says, “is an act of God.” The ABS studios are only two to three blocks away from OMB. Thus, Edu can juggle his time in-between jobs with ease.

His early morning schedule has made a night life virtually impossible for him. But Edu has no complaints. He’s been there, done that. And the early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine is doing him good. It’s giving Edu’s skin a healthy glow.

Still, he can’t help but stumble upon doubting Thomases along the way. They come up with questions like: Till when will Edu pursue his anti child pornography campaign? Won’t this be just a case of ningas cogon?

“Open my wallet and you see photos of my children inside,” replies Edu. That’s as good a promise as any that he will pursue his new battle till kingdom come.

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