This is our first newsletter of 2009 and many thanks to all who sent gifts for the children last Christmas. There were several Christmas parties not only for the children at PREDA but for the very poor urban communities. Every one received a gift beside hearty meals, games and activities. The PREDA children went to the beach, had trips to the mall and the arcade. Some (where it was safe), went for a family home visit. When not safe, the dedicated PREDA staff acted as foster parents and brought the children to their homes to have a family Christmas experience. It worked very well. All this thanks to the good, generous supporters of the children.
But happier still was the rescue of three children, two 13 year-olds and one 14 (two of them sisters), from a sex club in Alaminos, Pangasinan where the children were trafficked from Bataan province and forced into prostitution in Alaminos. The PREDA Rescue Team brought the police from the children's hometown in Bataan province but they were stopped in their rescue by Alaminos local police who were apparently protecting the sex club owners and that caused delay in the operation.
The PREDA rescue team insisted to get the children and pressured the Alaminos police to surrender them. They are now happily recovering at the PREDA Children's Home and starting a new life. More children are being rescued from the sex bars in the past six weeks, there are 23 in all. They are reluctant to accept help at first and want to escape, but with good counseling by the skilled PREDA social workers of the Home for Girls, they feel respected, understood and accepted and they come to realize how they were exploited and abused. They discover their dignity and are now determined to have a bright future through study, therapy and skilled training.
However, the big problem we face is the impunity of the abusers. There is a part of the male attitude that is “machismo” - some males thinking that they have entitlement to gratify themselves with young girls. If these men are in the bars and clubs, they treat girls and women as commodities who are for sale, and that they have a right over them. There is also a big problem with the lack of law enforcement in the towns and cities and the Mayors giving operating permits and tacit approval to the sex bars and clubs which are fronts for prostitution and child sexual abuse. This is the root cause of the problem so the justice system is failing the children and bribery is a serious issue.
Legal System is Failing the Children.
In Bataan, there are 15 cases of child rape and abuse filed with the prosecutor’s office, but there not even been a single preliminary investigation of these 15 cases after almost one year. The law states that the prosecutor ought to make its resolution deciding if there is prima face evidence to send the case to court for trial. Clearly they are not doing this. We are appealing to the Undersecretary of Justice to help solve this problem.
PREDA social workers are also victimized by these uncaring prosecutors. Hard working and dedicated children rights workers are presently on trial for libel based on the flimsiest of evidence. Arrest warrants have been issued and bail paid to keep Fr. Shay and PREDA social workers from jail. Meanwhile, the PREDA complaint against the American child abuser suspect has been stalled in the Bureau of Immigration for months.
PREDA is now lobbying the senior police officers to get the policemen and women to serve the arrest warrants against the child abusers and to prevent these culprits from abusing more children. We are holding seminars bringing together police, prosecutors, local government officials and NGO workers this March to try and develop better cooperation and awareness of the problems among them.
New Homes for Children.
There are a total of 58 children in the home for girls now rescued from the sex clubs and abusive homes. In January and February, we rescued 6 more children and took them into the protection and care of the PREDA Home for Girls. They are recovering well from the abuse and trauma that they experienced. However, all are suffering from ill health because of their sexual abuse experience and trauma but they are now being treated by the PREDA female doctor. Two of them have been found pregnant and they are happy about that even though they don't know the fathers. Yet that's nothing new as there are hundreds of thousands of single mothers and teenage pregnancies in the Philippines.
A new beautiful home for girls is also in the planning stage. Architectural plans are being revised to meet the needs of a best-practice home for girls. The land has been bought in a beautiful scenic area, peaceful and conducive for recovering from the horrors and abuse of the sex industry.
A bridge to reach the site is being built (slowly) by the provincial government. The governor Hon. Amor Deloso has promised to speed up the project. The home will be situated in a peaceful area far from town and city with beautiful views of hills and valleys, just what is needed for a peaceful recovery and spiritual renewal.
The children trafficked to pimps and sex tourists can be as young as 11 years old, many are 13 to 16 years old, they are all trafficked by thousands into the sex bars around the Philippines as sex tourism grows with men coming from Europe, North America and Australia. Philippine Government policy is to make them welcome and overlook their abusive ways. Even the Department of Justice prosecutors fail to deliver justice to the victims of abuse. More than not, in our experience, they side with the suspects and seem to think men are entitled to have sex with minors especially if they pay big money. The government seems reluctant to prosecute them so as not to scare sex tourists away. Bribery of prosecutors is frequently in the headlines here. Fifteen (15) of these cases of sexual abuse, some horrific have not even had a preliminary investigation by the prosecutors in Balanga, Bataan.
PREDA constantly conducts seminars on adolescent sexuality to youth groups, in schools and communities, to teach family values and responsibility behavior and family planning for young married couples.
A Case of Slavery Comes to Court after 2 Years.
In November 2006, the PREDA rescue team received a report that dozens of poor rural workers were recruited and transported to a far province to work in a sugar cane field cutting the tall cane stalks with machetes. It is back-breaking work and insects and snakes are a daily hazard. Some of the workers were minors and they brought their wife and child to cook. They were told that they had huge debts for transportation and food and had to pay it off first before getting salaries.
They were enslaved and trafficked with no escape. But word got out and the PREDA team organized a rescue with the anti-trafficking police and in a dawn raid, we found the sugar cane plantation and found the enslaved people working since dawn, unfed and living in animal like conditions.
Their armed guards were no match for the heavily armed police and they surrendered. About 45 workers and youth were rescued. They devoured the food brought by PREDA, their first meal in days. Now, 2 years later the case has come to court in Iba, Zambales. The trafficker who lured them to the plantation is the only one on trial. The wealthy political landowner has not been named and a TV channel that filmed the rescue and interviewed the victims was suppressed. The age of slavery and cover up is still with us.
PREDA Celebrates 35 Years of Success and Service to the Filipino People.
In the 35th Anniversary of the founding of PREDA by Fr. Shay Cullen, Alex and Merly Hermoso, we invited judges and court personnel to witness the work that we are doing here. Two female family court judges, with their court personnel came to PREDA to see our beautiful homes for children overlooking Subic Bay.
The rescued, recovered, and empowered boys performed their theater piece entitled "KAHON" that showed their life and hardships inside the prison, and showed how the intervention of the cooperative judges, the social workers and PREDA totally changed their life. Even the judges and their staff had teary eyes seeing the real-life stories of the boys before they were rescued by PREDA. The AKBAY youth also performed their play “Once We had Dream” that showed the life of children who are victims of abuse and exploitation and the efforts of PREDA in rescuing these girls. There was a party and refreshments for the staff in the evening.
While PREDA campaigns for speedy trial and legal proceedings, a good and faithful judge that attended the PREDA anniversary, Judge Leoncia Dimaguiba of Branch 194 of Paranaque, provisionally dismissed the case against one boy from the PREDA Center. Despite the fact that there was no prosecutor in her court that day, she ordered one from another court to attend her court so she could dismiss the case at once. This is a living example of a change in heart and support for the children and the work of changing their lives. We need more judges like this who show compassion and concern for these young boys.
We get 80 % of the criminal cases dismissed against these young people most of whom have committed only minor offenses yet suffered brutality in jails for long periods in sub-human conditions. PREDA has to bring the boys to the court hearings 3 hours away in Manila every week at great expense. Our mini-vans are falling apart as a result. The vehicles are also used to rescue abused children from the abusive homes and brothels. The Columban Fathers, Fr. Shay's missionary society, donated a mini-van 12 years ago and we hope they will replace it this year to continue their important part in rescuing abused children. The Columbans also gave the use of a bungalow, a former rest house, as a home for these children.
More children are rescued from the prison.
The Jail Rescue Program for boys is expanding as many children and youth are rescued from police cells and municipal holding jails. Even though such detention centers are in subhuman conditions and are illegally detaining children, the local government don¹t have homes for them and the care of street children and youth is low priority. Seventy percent (70%) are from broken homes, illiterate and are real neglected throwaway children of officialdom. In the PREDA Home for Boys, an open center home, overlooking Subic bay, and in the new vocational training center, there are no gates and guards and 90% are happy to stay and start home school and skilled training like carpentry, welding and ice cream making. Some of them are also assisting the feeding program of PREDA in the school for the indigent kids.
The construction of the new home for boys has begun in the Zambales countryside as many more boys are being released from jails and detention centers as we continue to lobby and promote the implementation of the new Juvenile Justice Law. However, while judges and government social workers are glad to release the children in conflict with the law to our custody, Municipal government don’t provide homes for them.
PREDA Calls for the Protection of IP's. The PREDA Co-Founder and Program Director, Alex Corpus Hermoso led the PREDA human rights team in the Peace Forum with the Philippine Military group stationed in Botolan, Zambales to discuss matters concerning the welfare of common people and the indigenous groups in Botolan. The public forum was organized by indigenous people's groups with the local government officials after alarming incidents of military infiltration in areas sacred to indigenous people and reported incidents of inviting people to the military camps at night and questioning them about their possible involvement with rebel groups.
PREDA has been working with the Aeta people to protect the rights of the indigenous people in Zambales for many years and in their fight for their ancestral domain and protect them from the harassment by the mining companies who want to grab their land. Influential people who are backing these mining companies sometimes use the military to get what they want and committing numerous human rights violation against indigenous people. A group of church people and MP Clare Short presently released a strong report on the damage of irresponsible mining on the lives of the poor.
Meteor Music Gives Humanitarian Award to PREDA.
PREDA has been awarded another recognition as to the importance of the work in protecting children and combating child abuse, trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors and youth. This latest award follows the “International Personality Award of the Year” given by RTE and Rehab. Ireland in September 2008, and “The International Solidarity Award” of the World Association of Gynecologists in Barcelona, Spain, last October 9, 2008, in the recognition of the work of Fr. Shay Cullen and his organization PREDA, defending the rights of children especially of the unborn.
On St. Patrick's Day, 17th March 09, The Ireland Humanitarian Award from Ireland Meteor Music Awards will be presented to Fr. Shay Cullen at the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Tickets are available from Meteor Music - email firstname.lastname@example.org. The awards will be broadcast at 9 PM on 18 March on RTE2.
The previous winners of this award were: Sir Elton John for his Aids foundation; Christina Noble for her work with street children in Vietnam and Mongolia; Bono who donated it to Goal and Concern; Sister Stanislaus Kennedy for her work with immigrants and children in Ireland; Adi Roche for her work with the children of Chernobyl; Father Peter McVerry for the Arrupe Society who work with homeless boys; Paul Brady to enable him to continue his work with the Belvedere Youth Club and last year, Mary Donohue for her work with the Rose Project providing medical, nursing and social care for people affected with HIV or Aids in Africa.
Peace and blessings,
Fr. Shay Cullen, the staff and the children
For more information contact: Josephine Nestor, Meteor Ireland Music Awards, MCD, 7, Park Road, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland , (00 353) 1 284 1747/(00 353) 86 8176015, email email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Available online at: http://www.preda.org/newsletters/news0903.html