Maria Rae was just 13 years old when she began to have a conflict with her aunt. She came from a broken home. She was abandoned when her parents split up. This is the great injustice and hardship suffered by the children of couples who come together without lasting love. They are driven more by impulse, have an unwanted child and then part ways and the child is abandoned.
So it happened that Maria Rae was left with her aunt who had children of her own and she was not cared for or loved. Maria Rae was a Cinderella kid. She was made to do the household chores but was not accepted by the family.
To find friendship, she wandered around the neighborhood in a town south of Manila looking for friends. She had dropped out of school when her parents separated. She lost the desire to learn and felt her life was already over and pointless. She was lonely and vulnerable. She was befriended by an adult man whom she called “Dada.”
He soon gave her money and gifts and she came to think Dada was the only person in the whole world that loved her. It was not love but grooming for abuse. He raped her and she had nowhere to run, no one to talk to and afraid to ask help.
He gave her pills, drugs of some kind. He then invited his friends to abuse her also. She was brought to hotels and sold for sex to the customers that Dada had lined up. They were drug users. The pedophiles love to get high on drugs while abusing children.
When her auntie learned that Maria Rae was being prostituted, she demanded a share of the payment. Dada refused and the aunt filed criminal charges for human trafficking against him. He was the local drug pusher, too, it seems as the sex industry is run on drugs. These drug dens of iniquity and abuse are fronts for drug trafficking and dealing. They control the young girls by getting them dependent on drugs.
When the government social workers heard about the terrible plight of Maria Rae, they realized that she was an emotionally shattered child with no human person to trust or cling to. They referred her to the Preda home for abused and trafficked girls.
She was very quiet during the first week or so but soon began to make friends and trust the social workers and therapists. She was given all her needs, toys, books dolls and treated with respect and dignity. This was totally new for her and she discovered that she was a cared-for-person with values and rights.
She grew and blossomed over the first months especially with the help of emotional release therapy.
In a padded room, she was free to let out all her anger and hurt and release the pain in her heart. She shouted and screamed day after day and pounded the padded cushions as if pounding her abusers. She began to heal and open up to the therapists and her social worker and told her story of abuse.
After some months with friendship, trust, care and therapy, she was emotionally strong and resilient and was willing to testify in court against her abusers. But this week, after much build up to the day of her testimony, the hearing was postponed yet again. But Maria Rae is still ready and prepared to fight for her dignity and find justice.
The drug mafia is also part of the sex mafia. The sex bar and nightclub owners and pimps make the children dependent on drugs. This is how they control so many young girls and make them docile and submissive. The customers of the sex bars love to get high on drugs while abusing the children. No young person will enter slavery willingly. They are victims of the drug lords and pushers.
This is a great challenge for the new president, Rodrigo Duterte. He has promised to eliminate the drug lords, pushers and the human traffickers who give drugs to the children. Their days are numbered.
He has already said he will immediately implement a nationwide curfew on young people drinking on the streets and in karaoke bars. In the sex districts, you can see foreigners walking around with young girls some as young as 14.
His promise to end corruption in government is the hope of the nation. He said three hours ought to be enough for a government office to release needed documents. I have waited two months for the vehicle registration office (known as Land Transportation Office or LTO) to release the vehicle registration certificate and there is no hope it will appear soon. Such delays are incompetence or a “delay for pay.” Bribery is common and President Duterte says he will eliminate it.
If there is a true crackdown on child traffickers and abusers, children like Maria Rae will be safer from the pimps and traffickers and the drug pushers. We sincerely hope that this clean up can be done without violence and any violation of human rights. The criminals that abuse and addict children must be stopped and the NGO community will continue to do its part.
Rev. Shay Cullen is a co-founder of PREDA - a nonprofit dedicated to protecting children.