Senator Imee Marcos has warned that the sexual abuse of children is likely to worsen, as fears of a new Covid-19 strain and a spike in infection rates after the Christmas holidays may extend strict community quarantines and keep children online for longer hours.

Marcos stressed the urgency of investigating the growing number of  cases of such abuse since lockdowns began almost a year ago, filing Senate Resolution 604 on Thursday to follow up a similar measure she filed in August last year.

“The delay in face-to-face classes will continue to expose grade school and high school children to these local and foreign sexual predators lurking on the internet,” Marcos said.

“The problem may have already grown to involve not only individual perverts but organized crime syndicates,” Marcos added.

Nude photos and videos of students desperate to buy gadgets or pay internet bills for online learning reportedly sold for as low as Php150 during a “Christmas bundles” sale last year.

Marcos cited a 156.1% increase in suspicious transactions related to the sale of online child pornography, which totaled 27,217 in the first half of 2020 from only 10,627 in 2019, based on a report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

More than 68% of the transactions pertain to international remittances from the US, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Norway, United Arab Emirates, Korea and Singapore, the AMLC said.

The number of local recipients of suspicious remittances via banks, money issuers and electronic wallets was highest in Pampanga, Cebu, Bulacan, Cavite and Quezon City.

According to region, the largest and most frequent exchanges of money for online pornography were observed in Rizal, Cebu, Davao del Sur, Bohol and Taguig City.

“The actions taken and progress achieved, or lack thereof, by the government and telecommunications firms to solve this growing problem must be made public,” Marcos said, in pushing for a Senate investigation.