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Religious Faith without Action is Dead

October 7, 2010 ·  By Fr. Shay Cullen

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A coalition of child rights advocates rallied at the Hall of Justice, Olongapo city last 5 October to demand a swift and honest investigation by prosecutors into the alleged trafficking and rape of a 12-year-old girl by Jose Rodriguez, the mayor of San Marcelino, Zambales.

Campaigners of Preda children's rights organization demonstrate for justice for Charis, a 12 year victim of trafficking and child sexual abuse allegedly by the mayor of San Marcelino, Zambales before Olongapo City Hall on International Day against prostitution, 5 October 2010

Campaigners of Preda children's rights organization demonstrate for justice for Charis, a 12 year victim of trafficking and child sexual abuse allegedly by the mayor of San Marcelino, Zambales before Olongapo City Hall on International Day against prostitution, 5 October 2010

The campaign banners and placards called for justice for abused children and an end to the dirty tricks that deny justice to victims of sex crimes. Even heinous sex crimes committed against small children, some as young as 4 year old, are not properly investigated and acted upon by prosecutors for many months, even years, beyond the stipulated time.

The recent dismissal by the Olongapo prosecutors of anti-trafficking charges against two Filipino-American citizens, a father and son, who held two teenage sisters from the age of ten and eleven for four years and allegedly sexually abused them, one of whom is now pregnant. This dismissal despite the strong evidence to establish probable cause worried human rights advocates lest it would happen again hence the rally of support for the 12 year old victim. The children’s rights organization Preda,(www.preda.org) immediately filed child abuse charges against the suspects and this is still pending a decision by Olongapo prosecutors.

The charges against the mayor allege that the mother of the child found messages on the child’s cell phone that indicated that she was being lured by a pimp to engage in sex acts with a customer. When the mother went with social workers and police to find her child she was with the mayor in his rest house. Legal-medical tests proved positive and charges were filed.

It took twelve long years to get a conviction of child rape against a lecherous child abuser. The Preda children’s home gave protection to the child as the mother was supportive of the abuser. With the unstinting and dogged help of the International Justice Mission, the child finally found justice this week. The abuser got a life sentence. It was a important bright victory for perseverance and commitment in an otherwise dark and troubling scene where cases of child abuse, trafficking, child rape, incest and the physical abuse of children frequently go unpunished due to corrupt and pay offs.

This is the very practice that the Preda foundation that I head up is trying to eradicate from the village level of local government. All too often officials and even government social workers act as intermediaries to settle a case between a paedophile and the parents of the abused child.

This is illegal but widespread never-the-less. The seminars and workshops for local government officials, parents, teachers and social workers teach the provisions of the child protection law, give guidelines on how to report abuse, protect children, prevent trafficking, abuse and child prostitution.

The president  Ireland Mary McAleese greets Fr. Shay as a  long time friend and supporter of the work of Preda protecting children through the Irish Aid project.

The president Ireland Mary McAleese greets Fr. Shay as a long time friend and supporter of the work of Preda protecting children through the Irish Aid project.

This work of protecting and promoting human rights is well supported by Irish Aid, the development agency of the Irish government. In a June introduction to the Irish president, Mary McAleese and her husband at the presidential residence in Dublin, I was impressed with her high level of awareness of this program and expressed her support for this important work of protecting children.

The coalition wrote the new Sectary of Justice Leila De Lima to request special prosecutors of the highest integrity to handle the case. Secretary De Lima is the brightest hope of human rights and child rights advocates. She is a no-nonsense secretary, a former human rights commissioner that took on the death squads of Davao and pursued human right violators relentlessly. So paedophiles and child abusers have much to fear. Life in a Philippine prison is hellish experience and this country must regain its honor and dignity after the past ten yeas when corruption and abuse in the government climbed to a height to equal that of the Marcos regime according to some commentators.

The church is challenged to focus on these fundamental issues of the violation of the rights of women and children being sold into sexual slavery in sex bars operating with official government permits. They are abused, made pregnant and forced to have abortions.

Last week the Preda research team uncovered rampant prostitution of many young girls and boys in a Mall not far from the holy shrine of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo Church. As St. James says, Religious Faith without action is dead. (James Ch. 2: Vs 26)

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