(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)
Saving and protecting children from abusers, pimps, pedophiles, and traffickers, be they parents or corrupt business people, is the work that goes on everyday here at the Preda Children's Home. New cases, seemingly one worse than the other, arrive every few days. The child care team and the legal team help them cope up with the trauma and protect them from the pursuing pimps and abusers.
Take the case of Michelle. She is a small 14 year-old child that looks like an 11 year-old Filipino and she was sold by her mother to a rich Australian pedophile sex tourist on a beach who then took her to live in an apartment provided by another Australian.
Michele's sister, Angie, who was also prostituted by her mother, reported the situation to a friend - Maria. She had attended a Preda child right's seminar and knew exactly what to do. She contacted Preda and the authorities were called in and child was rescued. She is now in the protection of the Preda CFC (Childhood for Children) programme with many others. The Australian sex tourist is in federal police jail awaiting trial.
The trafficking of children as sex slaves is still rampant and the government social welfare department is struggling to do all it can to stop it. But it is not enough. There is the on-going high profile legal case against a town mayor. The disgusting and outrageous reality is that child trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children is allowed and permitted by many mayors. The mayor's permit is essential for a sex bar to operate. The city hall business permit office gives out the permits and operating licenses in quick time to the sex bars and sex dens where cybers-sex is rampant. There is big money flowing in all directions.
It so easy to get accreditation for a sex bar but the children's home permits are blocked by city officials. We are appealing to the Secretary of Social Welfare, Dinky Soliman, to help us get our accreditation renewed and overcome the blocking tactic of local government. She is the great hope of the Philippine poor and children right's movement now. She quit the last government as Secretary of Social Welfare and Development because of widespread corruption she saw inside of the cabinet of former president Arroyo.
The case against the powerful mayor is that of a 12 year-old who was corrupted, groomed and persuaded by a pimp to become a child prostitute. The child, not knowing what would happen, went with the pimp to the Mayor of San Marcelino, Zambales. The prosecution is alleging that he ordered the child to be delivered to his private residence like a pizza pie. This would make him a trafficker, a non- bailable offense. The mother of the child checked the mobile phone of her daughter and was shocked to see a text message from the pimp setting up a date with the mayor for her daughter.
She got the help of the City Social worker of Olongapo City, and with the police they went to find the child. They caught the mayor with the child in the act so to speak. The medical examination produced evidence that shows sexual abuse. The legal battle goes on, the medical examiner and his family has gone into hiding because of death threats. The courageous city social worker shrugged of the threats against her. "I will testify no matter what they try against me" she said.
The most vulnerable of all are the children trafficked, abused and incarcerated unjustly. Their conditions are documented as sub-human. Christian and human values and principles based on the dignity of the human person and inalienable rights under the UN charter for Universal Rights makes it mandatory for us to help protect these children with all the resources we can get. People who are abhorred by child abuse by person in authority as well as the acts of incest are challenged to speak against the abuse at all levels and support the children to heal and recover and testify. Despite all our efforts to prevent, and campaign against the corrupt elements in society and government that allow such child abuse, we need the therapeutic community to help, heal and protect the victims. We have to act on our belief, faith, commitment, and not to leave the suffering of children to just talk, we have to act and save their lives. END