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.
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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.preda.org
Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, 2200 Philippines