Good judges bring justice to victims of child sex abuse

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

May 31, 2022

By Shay Cullen

Dedicated officials are an inspiration to all by implementing the law and giving justice to victims in the Philippines

The wide extent of child sexual abuse is a shocking and embarrassing reality that no nation wants to admit to. This is why it is largely ignored and family reluctance to report child rape by a family member or neighbor allows more abuse and prevents children from getting justice.  

Laws are circumvented by duty bearers. Even police fail to pursue investigations and some are allegedly in cahoots with the suspects and create a technicality to have a case dismissed, defeating the purpose of the courts. Victims of rape and trafficking are left unprotected by social services and sent home without help or therapy in a protective home because there is almost none provided by government services. 

There are thousands of clinics and hospitals in the Philippines, yet almost no therapeutic homes to protect victims of abuse from abusers, traffickers or members of their own abusive families. The children have nowhere to go for help. Globally, one in every three girls and one in every six boys are victims of sexual abuse. In the Philippines, it is even higher. 

The shame and embarrassment on the nation and government is so huge that they are in denial. They claim it is no big problem and so there is no need for therapeutic homes. A study by UNICEF and Interpol says as many as two million Filipino children are victims of online sexual abuse and exploitation. Recently two pedophiles, a British and a Swiss, were identified as customers and perpetrators of horrific online sexual abuse of Filipino children by their parents for money, and were reported to Philippine police, but no legal action or investigation has been taken by the UK or Swiss police that we know of.

Victims of child human trafficking may number as many as 60,000 a year, UNICEF estimates. It makes the amendments to the anti-trafficking-in-persons law and the anti-online sexual abuse and exploitation bill all the more urgent to be signed into law by the president. These updated laws are in response to technological advances and, if enforced, are vital to protect children. The recent passing of the law raising the age of sexual consent is a huge benefit for child victims. Sexual intercourse with a Filipino child below the age of 16 is statutory rape.

Anti-trafficking laws are sometimes circumvented by deliberate creation of legal technicalities. However, judges wisely balance such dirty tricks against the clear, unequivocal testimony of children who testify how they were abused and trafficked by criminal pimps and human traffickers. Such evidence is the basis of all true judgment and justice is being done despite the reluctance of some government agencies to pursue it and enforce the law. 

It is not all doom and gloom. Dedicated prosecutors and committed judges and good police are an inspiration to all. These dedicated officials inspire the public to have trust in the justice system. Without that, civilized society will descend into chaos. 

On March 9, prosecution attorney Sunshine Palomar in Olongapo City sent John for trial in court on two counts of statutory rape. He sexually abused his younger sister Julia (not her real name), now 18, since she was only eight years old. After years living in fear, Julia got the courage to seek help from a friend and contacted a local social worker who rescued Julia and brought her to the Preda home for protective custody and therapy. Julia became self-confident and empowered and she filed a complaint against John. He was arrested and detained and will stand trial. 

In another case, Orlando was recently arrested and detained in Quezon City on the order of Judge Gemma Theresa B. Hilario-Logronio. Orlando is facing two charges of statutory rape. Julio, another suspect, was recently arrested and detained in Olongapo City by order of the same judge. He is facing two counts of lascivious conduct as the stepfather of the victim, who was only 10 years old when she was allegedly abused. 

Christian Rey Manzano was also recently arrested and detained in Castillejos, Zambales, on an arrest warrant issued by Judge Hilario-Logronio. He is facing three counts of statutory rape and violation of Article 266-A 1(d) of the Revised Penal Code. 

Abused child Aiza (not her real name) was healed by emotional release therapy. She bravely gave her clear testimony in court. At first, her mother prevented her from attending court hearings. The good judge in Iba, Zambales, Judge Maribel Mariano-Beltran, did not dismiss the case. She referred the child to the care and protection of the municipal social worker who brought her to Preda.

Preda works closely with prosecutors and the courts and writes to the Supreme Court administrator from time to time to support good judges, promote justice for children and to see that justice is delivered without delay. Good judges have frequent hearings and do not allow postponements that cause emotional distress to the child. 

The child can become angry at the delay since they cannot go home until they testify, otherwise the abuser and his family will harass and threaten her not to testify. She may refuse to testify or pursue the case because of the long wait and postponements. That is why protective homes and therapy centers are essential to support victims and get legal help to bring abusers to justice.

Good judges will not allow affidavits of desistance or allow children to withdraw their testimony since it is done under duress. Working with good prosecutors and judges, Preda children win an average of 15 convictions of their abusers every year. This is a great success story for the children, some as young as six years old.

More homes are needed with professional therapy where children are protected, supported, affirmed, healed, educated and empowered. The Preda therapeutic home is one of very few homes for girl victims of domestic sexual abuse, rape and human trafficking. The professional staff have helped 96 children this past year. They all received protection, therapy and legal assistance. 

Of the 96 children, 52 were victims of sexual abuse, incest, rape or acts of lasciviousness and one was forced into early marriage. Another 36 were rescued victims of human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. In all, 105 abused/trafficked victims (five males, 100 females) received legal assistance in the past year. 

While we work to prevent abuse, everyone must report a crime to the authorities and to the Preda Foundation for immediate action to save, protect and heal any child victim of abuse. 

* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

Father Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary who has worked in the Philippines since 1969. In 1974, he founded the Preda Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and children and campaigning for freedom from sex slavery and human trafficking.