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A BLEMISH ON PHILIPPINE TOURISM

February 27, 2013 · 

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By Fr. Shay Cullen

Last January 4, 2013 in Butuan City, the alert and committed employees of the Almont Inland Hotel and Convention Center saw a foreigner bringing five young boys into his hotel room and to their credit they immediately called the police. The police team led by Chief Inspector Reynate Sibayton and Marizan Liza Estrada found a German man, 49, in his room with semi-naked boys, who later told police they had been sexually abused by the man who cannot be named for legal reasons but is in jail.

He was brought before Judge Eduardo S. Casals last Monday, 25th February and a determined and committed City Prosecutor Attorney Isabel Plaza pressed the charges. She had the suspect’s camera accessed for pictures by police forensic experts in Davao and submitted as evidence the shocking pictures of sodomy and disgusting acts of sexual abuse against the boys, aged 10 to 14, by the accused. The children had been brought from Gingoog City about one hour away. The charges are child abuse under RA 7610 and trafficking of persons under RA 9208. His laptop and tablet have yet to be accessed for their contents; perhaps more shocking evidence will be found.

So if only more hotel employees were as committed to child protection, the police would have many more suspects behind bars. They can do it if they have the support of the public and the politicians.

In another case in Tacloban City, eleven boys, all minors were given money to participate in sexual acts with an American suspect. It was known to some of the parents but they made no complaint. After a year, the father of one boy made a complaint to the police and they arrested the suspect and he is on trial.  So that’s the positive side so far. However, let’s watch the outcome of the trial and see if it is dismissed for “Lack of Evidence”, as usually happens. Surely Tacloban justice is up to the challenge to prosecute and convict and send a message to the world that child abuse is not tolerated in Tacloban.

Critics of the judicial system claim it is “the abundance for gifts not the lack of evidence” that lets the paedophiles and sex tourists that sexually exploit Filipino children walk away smiling to abuse some more. This is a slap-the-face to the dignity and honor of Filipinos everywhere and all who care about child rights and the evil of trafficking people into sex slavery. This level of corruption is what President Aquino and his team have to courageously address immediately and to save the face and the children of the nation.

The international community must act also and use its influence all the more to persuade the government at local and national level that this permissive attitude favouring trafficking for sex exploitation has to be replaced with healthy and morally right tourism. Foreign aid money should not be given to such corrupt governments that allow trafficking of persons. The paedophiles will abuse children not only here but back in the own country also. They are serial sex addicts and don’t have spiritual conversions at the airport on the way home.

That the parents of ten year olds would allow their children to be sexually abused by the paedophiles for money shows us the state of our nation and how badly government-permitted sex tourism is destroying the moral virtue and Christian values of respect for the person. These values, once held and practiced, made the Philippines a strong and virtuous people that is under threat.

The government can stop it and close the countless sex bars and paedophile paradises around the county if they have the moral courage and political will. It’s clear they don’t see it as destructive of young lives, morally wrong and a gross violation of human rights. If they do see it and I can hardly believe they do not and still allow it, they are paragons of corruption.

When huge international pressure from the US Government and the International Intellectual Property Alliance and the music industry threatened dire retaliation against Philippine business interests unless the Philippines stopped the proliferation of DVDs  of pirated movies and music, then  amazingly the government did it. In the past months pirated DVDs have disappeared from the streets and the stalls on street corners and in the market and malls are gone. If the government can do it for the movie and music industry why not act for the Filipino people against trafficking and sex tourism? Without this, a talked about campaign by an international alliance of child rights advocates and survivors of sexual exploitation could campaign to boycott Philippine tourism. What a disaster that would be.

Email: shaycullen@preda.org

(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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