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REFLECTIONS | Crimes against children on the Internet 

By Fr. Shay Cullen

THE protection of children from harm and especially sexual abuse is the prime responsibility of every parent and every adult especially those with moral and legal responsibility in Church and State.

Readers have responded positively to the previous article expressing relief and thanks that an alleged child rapist priest Karole Reward Ubina Israel, 29, of Solana, Cagayan was arrested and hopefully will be charged with child sex abuse in court. The child victim was 15 years old when she was allegedly first abused by him. 

According to the testimony of the child victim, this priest in Cagayan videotaped the sex abuse of the child several times and threatened to post them on social media that would instill fear, intimidate and control the child. 

Father Karole Israel admits the sexual acts but he claims it was consensual. The victim denies that. The videos used to blackmail her make that a useless defense. Republic Act 11930 otherwise known as the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Act says in Section 5: “Effect of Consent of the Victim. — The consent of the victim is not material or relevant and shall not be available as a defense in the prosecution of the unlawful acts prohibited under this Act.”

He is one of the very few priests ever charged in court in the Philippines of child abuse and not one has ever been convicted or gone to prison. The priests enjoy total impunity, it seems. That is an invitation for them to continue abusing children and more to do so. 

Such is the power of the Church as an institution. It is able to protect the child abusers and allow the victims to suffer and intimidate government officials in allowing out-of-court settlements. Over a dozen complaints of child sexual abuse against Filipino priests have been filed with prosecutors in recent years but all have been settled privately or dismissed by the prosecutors. 

There are seven priests serving today in various dioceses that fled child abuse allegations or convictions in the United States and sought refuge here. As Cardinal Antonio Tagle said on two television interviews, including HardTalk on the BBC, the Church considers child abuse an internal matter and deals with it privately. Pope Francis disagrees. Suspects should be turned over to the civil authorities as crimes may have been committed. 

Defenders of children applaud the revelation of the truth about this case, painful as it is to the victim and the community. It is only the truth that will alert and warn people that child abusers can be anybody and abuse anytime, anywhere. Everyone must be protective of children. 

Priests and bishops like everyone else can be sinners and must be held responsible like everyone else for crimes against children. There must be no impunity, deference or special protection for them. The law applies equally to all and when the evidence is compelling and convincing, the punishment must follow the law. 

Posting child abuse images to blackmail or intimidate victims is one of the worst negative uses of the social media as Father Karole Israel allegedly did to his victims. Internet-based platforms such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, TikTok, are used to post vile, degrading and abusive images of children being sexually abused. 

The Internet is an instant worldwide communications technology that transmits to the social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. messages and images that are transmitted through the telecommunications corporations that provide Internet connections to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The Internet can be used by anyone with a smart phone and who can pay for one hour or a 24-hour connection and transmit images of live sex shows of child abuse.

These ISPs are the pathways by which images and videos are posted online and the channels by which child sexual abuse images and live-streamed videos of child abuse shows are shared to depraved pedophile criminals around the world that order and pay for them. This is a terrible crime forbidden by RA 11930 passed in July 2022. 

The challenge for the Internet Service Providers and their telecom corporation owners is to provide the most powerful Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven software to detect and capture and block such evil images and videos from being transmitted. This is mandated by law RA11930.

It may be impossible, as there are so many, to prevent them from being made and posted but not impossible to intercept and capture and block them from reaching the public or the intended abusers and then reporting them to the authorities so the abusers can be identified and brought to justice. 

The social media platforms under Philippine law are called “participative network platform provider” or a “social media intermediary”, and have been used to fix elections, brainwash the public, and transmit evil content, such as child rape videos and images and live-streaming of child abuse. They are mandated by Philippine law (RA11930) to identify and block and remove such content from reaching the public. They do this in Germany, Australia, France and Turkey, the US and other EU countries lest they be held criminally liable for illegal content on their platforms.

They have out-sourced this work to contractors that hire call center workers to train as “content moderators” in the Philippines and elsewhere. These Filipinos have to view a quota of child abusive images and other hateful and barbaric posts on the platforms and judge to keep or delete them. They apparently do not report them to the authorities as the law says they should. What is needed is to install artificial Intelligence-driven detection software. 


One content moderator out of thousands can see 1,000 abusive images in one day and decide to delete them but first must report them to the Philippine Internet Crimes against Children Center established in 2019 to investigate the source of the abusive material and hold the people responsible for posting the abusive material accountable. It is already totally overwhelmed by the task, how much more if they received the content found by the content moderation call-centers?

Everyone- parents, citizens, Church and state- are challenged to behave in a morally correct way and respect and follow the Gospel mandate. Jesus of Nazareth says children are the most important in the world above all others, even bishops. He also says a millstone be tied around the neck of abusers and they be brought to justice (Matthew 18:1-7). That is what we must all strive to do but above all help the victims to heal, recover and be empowered. Report abuse confidentially to or +63 9228768621.


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