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Preda Newsletter February 2007

February 4, 2007 · 

strong>Dear friends and defenders of children,

Defending children and bringing their abusers to justice is one of the most important ways to help children recover and heal the psychological scars of abuse. In the Philippine justice system that is one of the most difficult tasks to achieve. It takes persistence and determination never to give up. The system is designed it seems to create fatigue and exhaustion so that the child will give up and not testify. She can be intimidated by a cruel and harsh face to face cross examination from the defense attorney of the abuser. There are endless delays that make the most committed children’s defenders and paralegal officers want to give up. But they don’t, they fight on. There are few video conferencing equipped courtrooms to shield the children.

The endless delays by the lawyers for the defense, the judge and the prosecutor create this charade of justice in many courts. if the accused is well off he can bribe the parents, the court officials and even the judge. Recently, a family court judge was forced to resign because of evidence of shady deals behind the scenes.

In 2002, an uncle abused his 4 nieces but the children’s mother and aunties, the sisters of the abuser blocked the case by preventing the children from testifying. Now, two of the children are in Preda and we will again file the charges in another venue. A child allegedly abused by a policeman was persuaded by her mother to run away from the Preda Center and go home and receive rewards. Within weeks she had been forced to sign an affidavit of withdrawal of her complaint against her abuser. Preda will oppose this.

CFC girls enjoy outing at Ocean Adventure, watching dolphin and whale shows.

CFC girls enjoy outing at Ocean Adventure, watching dolphin and whale shows.

The Pursuit of Justice for child victims. The most recent reports just landed on my desk today, a Preda employee was informed within hours of the rape of a 9 year-old. The child was found and rushed to the hospital. The abuser was identified by other children and was arrested and jailed. Thanks to the many seminars given by the Preda child rights education team for community action to protect children and the good neighbors raised the alarm and helped have the abuser cornered and arrested. Although prevention is more important.

The Preda Rescue Team will assist the parents to pursue justice and to bring the child into protective custody of the Preda Children’s Home if they or the child is threatened by the abuser’s gang or family. The government does not have such rescue teams and shelters.

The other case is a 3 year old girl likewise abused by a 15 year-old boy. Another report says that a 9 year-old has been abused many times by two 11 year-olds and a 15 year-old boy. Although the case has been reported to the officials of the town, no action was taken as the suspects are well off sons of wealthy families. Preda will send a team to find the child victim and help her.

Boys as young as eight are referred to Preda by virtue of the new juvenile justice law.

Boys as young as eight are referred to Preda by virtue of the new juvenile justice law.The children referred to the Children's Home for protection are aged from 6 year-old to 17. Recently, a 13 year old child was rescued from a sex bar in the nearby province of Bataan. She had been sexually abuse many times by customers at the OK Fine Bar and is happy to have been rescued. Now at Preda, she leads the morning prayers with the other girls giving thanks for their deliverance and praying for more to be saved.Another 17 year-old girl was rescued from a cyber sex shop in Zambales province and many more are waiting to be freed. There are now a total of 55 girls rescued from abusers and exploiters, now happy and healthy at the Preda Children's Home. Preda has opened a new smaller home for girls in need of intensive care. The Columban Fathers gave a small bungalow house to Preda. It is spacious enough for 15. When the number increases we hope to have a new more spacious home ready for them with the help of our special supporters.Longest legal battle ends with conviction of rapist. One of the longest and hardest legal battles for child rape ended with the conviction of Alvin Lizardo, 22, for the rape of a child who stayed at the Preda center for several years for protection because of grave threats to force her to drop the case. But bravely she persisted. During eight years of legal struggle, we had to have the case transferred to a family court and with the help of a lawyer it finally got a conviction. However, the abuser is still around and being seen playing basketball openly. The police of Muntinlupa have not served the arrest warrant. Preda is writing to the Police Chief to take necessary actions and prevent further abuse of children by this culprit.The dangerous work of protecting children. In some cases the abusers make a partial pay off the parents and they come to try to get the child out of the Preda Children's Home so that the child will not testify in court. If they succeed they get paid the balance. Local officials sometimes facilitate the deal. So it is hard work to protect the children. The abusers fight back and make threats or file counter charges against us. In the past there were charges of kidnapping, slander, and libel; but we won them all proving conclusively that they were fabrications based on false testimony concocted by the Sex Mafia. At present the Preda staffs are charged with libel because of something on th internet which was sent to court despite it being beyond the statue of limitations and being a non-libel action. We were shocked at the decision of the prosecutor. Likewise the judge insisted that we all be put on trial despite our motion to dismiss. Something is going behind the scenes to be sure. The libel charge against me for getting the ITV/CNN TV cameras into the child prisoner’s cells is pending in a Metro Manila prosecutor's office. The two devastating reports in 2005 and 2006 shown world wide helped move the Philippine Congress to pass the Juvenile Justice Bill (now a law). Libel is a criminal offense and if found guilty I could be sent to jail. I hope ITV/CNN will come back to cover that.Street kids from Olongapo City visit the Preda Center and enjoy the games and food.

The Home for Boys is also almost filled to capacity. The passing of the new law, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act and its promulgation in 2006 after a 9 year campaign has begun to be slowly implemented by some government social workers. The law is retroactive so youth and children convicted and held in detention on remand can be transferred by the courts to the Preda Home for Boys. We need to provide a new home for the children. Now we are in the final stage of buying a new property in the countryside that will be the location of the new home with vocational training and an organic farm so we can grow our own food.

In 2006 we admitted 71 kids rescued from prison and some rescued from police stations ages 8 to 16, and others were released by court orders from a government jail for children called CRADLE( of all names). It is an inappropriate prison-type center for children. I was there visiting with our parish partner in Graystones, Ireland, Fr. David O’Halpin and we found kids inside this high security jail as young a 8 years old. It is four stories with double rows of bars and wired off balconies surrounded by high walls.

There was little activity for the youth although they were expecting our visit. All the children and youth were separated by age and gang membership. While the area is clean with the inner walls painted with huge rural scenes, the kids can think of nothing but to escape.

There is a female warden now. Before, four teenagers tried to get over the wall but were riddled with shot guns. Not surprisingly with a shop across the road advertising the adjustment of hair triggers. Two of the shot boys recovered and were eventually released to Preda. The Preda Home for Boys is an open center; there are no walls, gates, guards or fences. All stay because of a sense of belonging, a strong feeling that they are wanted, valued, cared for and they are affirmed and helped to restore their self-value and esteem. Only 7 left the center without permission and went back to their homes. We still visit them there. They had a good family and were home sick. But at least we were able to get their cases dismissed.

Girls present a colorful cultural dance to welcome visitors to the Preda Center.

Girls present a colorful cultural dance to welcome visitors to the Preda Center.

The big change in the second part of 2006 and January 2007 was that the new law is taking effect. 33 kids were brought to Preda by social workers and parents instead of being charged in court and put in jail. However, Preda social workers are still visiting police stations and finding minors jailed there. We are working for their release. At any given time there are no less than 40 clients at the Preda center and at times as high as 62. We were able to have 22 charges dismissed against the boys and had their record cleared. We are still working to get another 23 cases dismissed.

Our visit to police station jails in Metro Manila and other towns continue. In Kalookan City, Metro Manila, five minors ages 13, 15 and 16 were found behind bars in the police station. Here the Juvenile justice law is not yet being implemented. Preda social workers will co-ordinate with the court social worker to have them released and transferred to Preda as they are all charged with crimes although they ought not to be as four are 15 years and below.

Internet Advocacy. The PREDA web site- www.preda.org – is being visited 56,000 times, (average) each month since January, In comparison with the 52,000 visits last December 2006. Preda.net which showcases our Fair trade products is drawing many visitors also and new buyers are contacting us through it. The Research, Advocacy, Information and Networking Department of Preda also maintains 9500 e-mail database where the regular articles and updates about PREDA’s work are sent on regular basis to various friends, partners and supporters.

Visitors joining integration activities with the children. Last year, there were 56 groups who came to experience the community integration activities with the young people at Preda. The Preda kids entertained the guests and the visitors joined in the groups dynamics. We had welcome parties for the guests as well where the children showcase their talents through dancing and singing. The visitors were given orientation of the work and projects of Preda. A total of 389 visitors coming from different countries like Japan, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Africa, Switzerland, Canada, America and some are local visitors as well joined in the activities at Preda and learned about our services. In January to February alone, we facilitated 11 groups with 34 persons all in all who came from Korea, Ireland, Germany, India and other local Filipino partners.

Child advocates from Preda lend their support to indigenous peoples in their campaign against large-scale mining that threatens their ancestral domains.

Child advocates from Preda lend their support to indigenous peoples in their campaign against large-scale mining that threatens their ancestral domains.Protecting the environment. Father Shay Cullen attended an important mining report launching at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila to promote the protection of the tribal minorities in the province. Zambales is the home for the Aetas which are now under threat because of mining operations and were not spared by the threats of land grabbers.Zambales province is well known for its chromate, cobalt, nickel, and other metals. It has also copper, gold and other non-metallic minerals like talc and asbestos. This is how rich in natural resources our province is. Mining operations exist for a very long time in our province and some companies came to the point of stopping its operations after extracting a huge amount of minerals. And yet, it is very visible that Zambales province remains poorPrior to this, the availability of these minerals became the threat of destruction of our eco-tourism and biodiversity rich mountains. Almost all the towns have mining applications while there were already on going operations in some areas. Mt. Tapulao in Palauig, Zambales is rich in biodiversity and is now in great peril. Despite its declaration being a protected area, the mining companies backed by foreign investment are moving in to cut trees and damage the land. The unrestrained mining is usually done on the ancestral land of the Aeta, the aboriginal people of the Philippines. Their rights and ancestral domain is being taken over with fake permits and even without permits. The Preda ecological protection team has being working to help the people know their rights and start a dialogue with local officials where mining applications have been made and where some are operating already.PREDA is going organic. Inspectors in training.To promote organic production of the “carabao yellow mango”, the delicious healthy fruit of the Philippines, Preda is training 14 inspectors. Three of them from Indigenous People's communities and are being trained by Lani Limpin and Tony Santos of the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP). The inspectors focused on developing the PREDA Internal Organic Standard and Operational Manual in line with OCCP/IFOAM/NATURLAND organic standards. The pool of inspectors will inspect all the members of the Small Holder Group Certification organized by PREDA-Fair Trade. The team will undergo series of trainings and it is expected that the Internal Control System for mango will be installed in September and PREDA will apply for the Inspection and Certification by October, on set of the mango flowering season by November. We expect to have the First Organic Mango in Conversion by March 2008 and will be fully organic by March 2009.Thanks to you these children are safe and free from abuse.

Abolition of Slavery. Father Shay is giving a Keynote speech at a convention in Hull on 23rd February and at Essex University on 28th of February to mark the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of slavery by the British parliament. William Wilberforce was the youngest parliamentarian ever elected representing Hull and Yorkshire. He made it his goal to pass the legislation after reading and researching the life of slavery of millions of black Africans traded through British ports and shipped to America. With the support of Thomas Clarkson, he eventually succeeded in persuading the parliamentarians that slavery was morally wrong. He was one of the great campaigners of this time.

On March 3 in West Grave Hotel, Clane, Co. Kildare, Ireland there will be a dinner dance organized by Bernie Walsh for the Preda children. There will be a slide show presentation by Fr. Shay and an auction of valuable donated items. Contact by phone Bernie Walsh at 0851264778 or Mary Kinsella at 087 227 7831 or 01 833 5101.


Peace and blessings,

Fr. Shay Cullen, the staff and the children

Contact us: predainfo@preda.org Website: www.preda.org
Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, 2200 Philippines

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