The History of the Work of Preda
The work that PREDA has been doing for the past 41 years is to develop global awareness and attention on the rights and dignity of women and children and end their suffering, sexual abuse and exploitation. Much of this abuse has it roots in sex tourism. This bad practice damages all the good tourist projects and destinations.
All operators of hotels, resorts and tours who promote good clean tourism should implement the code of conduct of good tourism and work with NGOs(Non-Government Organizations) like Preda to encourage government officials of good will to eradicate this evil and restore the good name of “tourism” that has been tarnished by the sex Mafia and corrupt politicians.
I believe that when enough people know the truth about the extent and causes of sexual abuse and commercial exploitation of children, for which the tourist industry is used as a front, they will respond to do more to help end these hideous crimes against women and children and civil society.
Preda’s work began when Fr. Shay Cullen, a Columban missionary priest from Ireland first went to the Philippines. He was assigned to a parish in Olongapo City, situated in Subic Bay, in 1969. This town was the home of the US Navy 7th fleet and thousands of navy men lived on this huge base and many more would visit Olongapo City when the aircraft carriers and warships arrived.
The city was one big brothel; thousands of women and children were systematically sexually exploited, were exposed to HIV-AIDS and were victims of violence. Many more young children were sold to pedophiles and many were victims of drug abuse. An estimated 16,000 women and children were trafficked and prostituted in the sex bars.
Young boys, some as young as 10 and 12 years old were jailed in subhuman conditions and sexually abused by older prisoners. We have made much progress but the jailing of children is still going on today despite the new law forbidding it.
The child victims are damaged for life, they lose their self-esteem, dignity and even their hope to survive; they are destroyed as human persons. Until very recently, the age of criminal liability in the Philippines was 9 years old and thousands are jailed every year. It is a global problem especially in developing countries. The child prisons are closed to the public and even to professionals so we can hardly know about the torture, brutality and sexual assault endured by children behind bars.
In 1974, with Filipino helpers, Fr. Shay Cullen established the PREDA organization (Peoples’ Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistance Inc.) to give shelter and protection and recovery to victims of abuse and more importantly to change this unjust situation in society that abandons children and criminalizes them and prostitutes them or allows them to be abused without getting help and justice. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 children and youth still experience the harsh punishment inside Philippine jail every year.
No person especially an impressionable youth or child can be normal after experiencing jail, especially living with adult criminals, murderers and rapists. They are psychologically and emotionally damaged. They are filled with buried anger at abusive adults and some become either abnormally fearful or dangerous and hostile to society. Many will grow up to join violent criminal gangs if not saved and helped. Those youth where are rejected and unwanted by their families, experienced no love, acceptance or support in life and turned to drugs, chemical glues to ease pain and hunger.
Fr. Shay began by rescuing the children and youth from jails and the streets and providing a safe therapeutic home where they could recover from the sexual, physical and emotional abuse suffered in jails and on the streets with the help of emotional expression therapy.
In the padded therapy room, they can shout and cry and release all the anger and hatred against their abusers and even their parents who abandoned them to the streets and to jails. This release of the pain allows them to be healed and live without pain-killing drugs.
Presently, many youth condemned to prison for small offenses are released from police cells and youth prisons to the Preda children’s home. This is an open facility without guards, gates, fences, nor punishment. The homes continue today helping hundreds of children and youth.
In the Preda home, there is freedom, respect, friendship affirmation, education, family reconciliation and reintegration. The children and youth do not run away surprisingly, because they are treated with understanding, trust, dignity and respect. We have discovered and proven that there is NO need for jails and punishment for most children and youth in conflict with the law and even those who commit serious offenses will stay of their own free will and change their lives.
Hundreds of the young minors have recovered at the PREDA homes .They were given education and many found jobs and made a successful new life.
Andre was 12 years old, he used to push a small bicycle on the streets collecting discarded bottles and scrap metal for recycling. He was out of school and earning money to feed his 6 siblings. A police officer, who wanted to meet his quota of arrests to get a promotion, arrested Andre although he had committed no crime. He was arrested and put in the cells of the police station, mixed with adult criminals, rapists and murderers.
He was made the working slave of the prisoners and at night Andre was sexually assaulted. He was almost four months in that police cell even though it was illegal to hold him there. He was charged with “stealing” scrap metal that was worth five euro. Preda social workers found him and immediately petitioned the judge to release him to the custody and care of Preda until his case was presented to the court.
He was traumatized and his family suffered greater hunger without his earnings. Poverty knows no justice, no compensation, no end. He took months to recover at the Preda children’s home where he received all his human and spiritual needs, he received affirmation, respect, understanding, dignity and a new sense of his self-value. He became a good student with self-discipline and self-respect, and made good friends. The false charges were dismissed by the action of the Preda legal team working with the court.
Preda also worked successfully to help change the Philippine law for children accused of wrong doing. This new law was passed only after a media exposure on world television, ITV of the UK and CNN that shows the conditions of children jailed in Philippine prisons. Preda helped to make that expose.
The new law establishes a progressive form of restorative justice and today the age of criminal liability is set at 15 years of age. Some politicians and police want to repeal that law. However we have to work to have this law in the Philippines implemented and applied and work to have similar good laws that respect the rights of children enacted in other countries.
Children who suffer rejection in the home are beaten, cursed, and endured domestic violence. Those who are sexually abused will grow up to be violent and rebel against society. Some become abusers, torturers and tyrants. However, children who grow up in a family where there is love, affirmation, good parenting, peace and respect for all will be responsible, caring and hard working young people of idealism. This is what the Preda home gives and almost all the youth make a successful recovery and a good life.
COMBATING CHILD PROSTITUTION AND DOMESTIC SEXUAL ABUSE.
In 1983, Fr. Shay and Alex Corpus Hermoso (Preda Co-Founder), uncovered an organized child prostitution ring that was trafficking women and children and supplying them for sexual exploitation by US sailors. The town mayors gave operating permits and licenses to the sex clubs and bars. One day, we were called to the church-run clinic and learned that 18 children had been found and treated for serious venereal diseases, the youngest child was named Jennifer and she was only 9 years old.
They investigated and discovered that the children had been prostituted and sold to sailors and local sex offenders and the children were infected. Despite efforts by the authorities to hide the child victims and pressure me to cover up the reality, I went public and reported this heinous crime in the press. There was great anger from the politicians of Olongapo City and they brought charges against me to have me deported from the Philippines. But the sex traffickers were not investigated and charged. Thanks to the support of Filipinos and international solidarity groups, the corrupt officials failed to have me deported. One American naval officer was put on trial and received only a light sentence despite the many victims.
While rescuing children from this sex slavery and treating them, Preda Staff had to look for the root causes of this evil and deal with these causes. The world of depravity, uncontrolled sexual desires, the promotion of sexual gratification as a commodity, promotes promiscuousness, unfaithfulness, broken marriages and dysfunctional homes.
US military bases were the prime cause of these huge social and family problems. It took many years of campaigning by Preda Foundation to help organize opposition. We at Preda proposed and campaigned to change the Subic Bay military facilities into economic export zones with a low tax base and it worked. The US bases (one in Olongapo and one in Clark, Pampanga) were closed down in 1992. The sex industry also closed down. It was a big victory for justice and decency. Today, hundreds of manufacturing companies have invested at Freeport zones and 80,000 Filipinos have dignified jobs in Subic bay economic zone although they are low paid.
But great damage had been done to the moral fiber and family values of the surrounding communities. Child abuse was growing in families and the villages and towns.
After 3 years after the removal of the US bases, the Filipino authorities allowed the reopening of the sex bars and clubs by international Mafia, gambling syndicates and most customers today are overseas sex tourists and traveling sex offenders coming to the Philippines from many countries. That is the present problem now. We at Preda are expanding our services and opposing this great evil of sex tourism that is again sexually exploiting Filipino children and young women. We need international pressure on the Philippine authorities to implement the law and close the sex industry once and for all. Sex tourists going to South East Asia and other places develop a depraved appetite for child sex and then return to their own countries and become abusers of their children in their own country. Some even abuse their own children.
Today, a direct result of the sex industry clubs and bars are spreading with impunity in the towns and villages of the Philippines. Officials are ignoring the problem. Sexual exploitation is spreading among the Filipino communities and the legal and moral prohibitions have broken down. Even local officials today act as negotiators between child abusers and parents to arrange a financial settlement when the child has been raped or abused. The official earns a percentage of the payment. The child is left without help and the pedophile goes free to abuse other children.
Preda educators and social workers are working daily in these villages to provide seminars for the people that this amicable settlement is illegal and the child must be helped and brought to a safe home for victims of abuse. Our Preda Home for Girls has 49 children for care and recovery. We help them recover by providing a caring and supportive environment with protection. We also help them heal by encouraging them to cry out their pains through emotional expression therapy. The deeply buried emotional pain and suffering they hide inside is opened and brought out. The emotional pain is eased and the anger is removed and psychological healing can begin.
Many children have recovered and are reintegrated to their families when it is safe for them. Some have succeeded in past years and finished college and today are Preda social workers and psychologists helping the new child victims at the Preda children’s home.
The Preda legal officers are filing criminal charges against the abusers but due to weak prosecution, few cases prosper and succeed. There are few convictions and abusers are still at large and a danger to the children.
Maryann was abandoned to the streets by her family and trafficked into sex club at the age of 15. She was exploited and sold to foreigners who sexually abused her. But she was rescued and recovered at the Preda Home and became a high honors student and I am happy to tell you that she is now in college and is a children’s rights advocate and had attended a speaking engagement at an international conference in Canada on child rights sponsored by UNCIEF in 2008.
Evelyn was abused as a child before she runaway from home to escape the abuse. But she was trafficked abroad into prostitution in Hong Kong. She was used in making pornography and suffered violence and sexual abuse. She was then rescued by a colleague of Preda and was flown back to the Philippines and has recovered at Preda. Thousands of young girls are trafficked like this every day. We can all do much to change this situation.
May all people of good will, defenders of children, protectors of human rights, all of us, never turn a blind eye to the suffering and exploitation and injustice done to children, may we always have the courage to take a stand and speak out and defend the helpless and most vulnerable.
May we all work for justice and make this a better world for all and especially for children, those of today and those waiting to be born, may we give them a better and more just, caring, affirming and loving world.