Press Release
July 15, 2019

De Lima alarmed by continued rise in 'sextortion' cases

Alarmed by the growing number of "sextortion" cases on social media, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged authorities and concerned government agencies to double their efforts in combating local syndicates preying on innocent victims online.

"Dapat pagtulungang sugpuin ng mga kaukulang ahensiya ng pamahalaan ang mga sindikatong nasa likod nito upang mabura ang ganitong mga modus sa internet na nakapambiktima na ng maraming tao," said De Lima, a former justice secretary.

De Lima issued the call after Channel News Asia (CNA) aired a documentary series entitled "The Dark Web", featuring a Bulacan-based "sextortion" syndicate spearheaded by a certain Maria Caparas.

According to digital forensics investigator Ali Fazeli, the internet has many available information that could be used to make a fake social media account legitimate to others.

"This way, it would be easier for a syndicate to earn the trust of their target," Fazeli told CNA.

The report detailed the operation of Caparas' syndicate as it preyed on foreigners using women and even children below 12 years old, was uncovered.

One of the victims, 17-year-old Daniel Perry from Scotland, committed suicide by jumping off a bridge after he failed to give in to the demands of Caparas' cohort. Caparas, who was dubbed as "Sextortion Queen", is now in jail for child abuse and trafficking.

De Lima called on netizens to be always vigilant and exercise extreme caution while using their social media accounts to avoid falling into the trap of syndicates behind the rampant "sextortion" activities online.

During her time as justice secretary, De Lima issued an advisory calling on internet users to be on guard against any "sextortion" activity after it was brought to her attention that several individuals were victimized on social media.

In De Lima's advisory, "sextortion" is defined as a crime committed in cyberspace where the offender obtains nude pictures or videos from victims, and then blackmails them for money to avoid the publication of the nude material.

"Nalagay ang Pilipinas sa malaking kahihiyan dahil sa kasong ito ni Caparas. Hindi na ito dapat pang maulit. Gawin natin ang lahat upang matiyak na ligtas ang paggamit ng Internet at social media," said De Lima, who also chaired the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) during her tenure at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Under De Lima's leadership, IACAT's efforts against human trafficking have earned the country a Tier 1 Status in the annual United States Trafficking in Persons Report in 2016 for having "fully met the minimum standards in eliminating human trafficking in the country."

In the 17th Congress, De Lima continued her advocacy against human trafficking as she filed Senate Resolution No. 945 urging the Senate to look into the increasing number of cases of child cybersex abuses in the country.

In addition, De Lima submitted Senate Resolution No. 379 which aims to investigate the increasing number of children being lured to "webcam child sex tourism" where they are paid to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam to paying foreigners.

For this 18th Congress, she is set to refile an Online Child Safety bill that will require commercial establishments and public institutions to use appropriate filtering devices and firewalls that will restrict children's access to harmful materials, and penalizing related prohibited acts.

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