It’s a happy day when we can save children from abusers, illegal detention, brothels, or from the clutches of traffickers, sex tourists or child porn makers. We at the Preda Foundation do that a lot but why is it so necessary in a so-called Catholic civilized country under the rule of law? And how long and how many thousands more children will suffer sexual abuse until the law is implemented and church leaders will act in a prophetic decisive way?
In a nation like the Philippines where corruption and poverty are so prevalent, pervasive and self-perpetrating, it is not surprising to see children suffering misery and abuse in illegal detention cells or thousands of minors trafficked and sold as sex slaves to foreign sex tourists with the nods and winks and sex bar permits of politicians who are supposed to protect them.
The billions of pesos taken from the people as tax by the ruling class are shamelessly plundered by politicians and their corruption-crazed cronies. As it was in the past, so it is today, the lawmakers become the law breakers and it is the children who suffer most and the many victims of endless floods, landslides, and destruction.
The laws granting huge sums of public money to corrupt politicians for development and poverty alleviation have been diverted to their personal accounts and they will never abolish it and it pays for their re-election. It is a corrupt practice that began under the Marcos dictatorship, an evil that Ninoy Aquino II, the assassinated father of President Noynoy Aquino III wanted to stop but died in the attempt with a bullet to the head.
President Noynoy Aquino III could abolish it by a Presidential Decree or Executive Order, since the release of the funds needs his approval. That would be the greatest honor the son could give to his deceased father and mother; an act of justice for the people, who cry out against the plunder of the public purse by parasitic politicians causing suffering to the poor.
I see the effects of this plunder every time I visit a jail or a slum or walk the streets of the sex industry where the children and women are bought and sold. If only they had good schools, their parents had jobs with fair wages, the rule of law reigned, good governance by clean politicians existed, what a greater nation this could be. Its people are great already by enduring so much injustice and hardship but can it not be brought to an end?
In Metro Manila on a regular jail visit, I found two small girls 12 and 13 years old locked up for months close to half naked adult male prisoners reaching to touch them. They were in an exposed cell, no beds, no privacy or change of clothes or even a bar of soap with only a bucket for a toilet. We got them released to safety and discovered they had been raped in the jail.
We also found Jamie, 12 years old boy, frightened and depressed. He was terrified of what the pedophile prisoners might to do him as darkness fell. He feared what the police might do to him if he did not confess to a crime he did not commit. And what they would do if he did confess? He should have been in a municipal youth home but there is none in his town since the politicians stole the money. So Preda social workers got Jamie and a few others released from jail that day and transferred them to the Preda Home for Children for which funds are constantly needed as most funding agencies, charities, and government ignore these victims.
The children should never be imprisoned. It’s illegal but the law is not respected that is why we campaign to change the social, religious, and political system. They tend to ignore child abuse and human trafficking. Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila has spoken strongly against the plundering of public funds. He is a prophetic voice in a moral wilderness, raging against the gates of hell. Soon he will follow the example of Pope Francis and will visit the juvenile jails and wash their feet with his tears. He will walk the streets lined with brothels, and like Jesus of Nazareth, see and have compassion on the women and children forced into prostitution and abortions. His message will inspire the faithful to rise up and put their faith into action for justice, freedom and the rule of law.
If he visited the children's home, the Cardinal would be shocked to learn that as many as 100,000 children are trafficked into sexual slavery yearly and he would help Rebecca, 14, with a mental age of 6 years old. He would be shocked by her story.
She was sold to a 28 years old man as his live-in sex slave approved by her mother and local officials as a form of marriage. At first, a prosecutor in Bulacan said that the child and the 28 years old man were “in love” and there could be no crime of child abuse. But upon protest and appeal by the PREDA.org paralegal officer, the provincial prosecutor Renato C. Samonte, Jr., reversed that wrong decision and ordered charges of rape in connection with RA 7610 be filed before the court.
The plunder, wheeling, and dealing over the lives and bodies of women and children have to be stopped by the good people rallying and demanding justice, and uncompromising and strict implementation of the rule of law. We should pray a lot too.
Rev. Shay Cullen is a founder of PREDA.org - a nonprofit dedicated to ending child abuse and sex trafficking.