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August 29, 2012 ·  By Fr. Shay Cullen



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

The Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has been appointed as the first female Chief Justice of the Philippines. She has a huge challenge ahead of her to clean up the many problems facing the judiciary. Sexually abused children, women and victims of human rights violations ought to be at the top of her reform agenda since they are the most vulnerable people in society crying out for justice and not getting it. They are the thrown-away victims of sexual violence who are most ignored, abused, trampled upon, and denied justice. The reason being that they are poor, powerless and considered worthless and voiceless. The Church too has much to do to help these victims. How wrong society is about them? They are the innocent. One of the profound occasions when Jesus of Nazareth was angry was when his disciples tried to push them away from him.

In the Philippines and elsewhere too, there is one system of justice that is very effective, fast and efficient, it is for the rich. For the poor there is practically little or none at all in reality. Justice delayed is justice denied as the slogan says and posted hypocritically on the walls of many court rooms where the poor are being denied justice daily. In the experience of many child rights defenders, it is mostly delayed and denied.

The case of Michelle, a 14 year-old girl, sold as a sex slave by her parents to a rich old Australian sex tourist on Baloy beach, Olongapo City. She was raped nightly. When the child’s older sister who had endured the same and now works in a sex bar, says it as unbearable, she complained to the authorities. The Australian rapist was caught in the act and arrested. The medico-legal evidence showed multiple lacerations on the child’s organs and she and her sister gave telling accounts of how it all happened. The parents of Michelle were not charged but were willing to confess and testify. Despite this overwhelming preponderance of evidence, the trafficking case was dismissed – a mystery by all accounts.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, after all he is a foreigner, a paying tourist and he had to be protected from a Philippine jail. The local politicians and hotel owners in the sex towns say a conviction is very bad for business. Money changes hands and most accused go free and fly off to freedom. The raped children are left abandoned unless rescued by the social workers of the Preda children’s home.

The traumatized abused child was given protection at the Preda children’s therapeutic home and a charge of child abuse was filed by the staff on behalf of the child. She was empowered enough to testify but the lawyers of the accused filed a Habeas Corpus case and the wayward judge ordered the child to be removed from the protection of the Preda home and given back to the pimping parents and presumably to the abuser. That’s justice for abused children? The case is blocked by unseen hands and is at a standstill. The Australian may have flown back to Sydney for all we know.

This is no isolated case, there are dozens like it in every office of the municipal social workers and the files of children’s rights advocates up and down the land. The positive outcome of an appeal for justice to the court administrator (under the office of Chief Justice) was that an assisting judge was appointed to the family court to take up the many child abuse cases that were denied justice.
The media can do a lot more to help children get justice. If it assigned as many reporters to cover the family court as it does to the rich and wealthy business elite, it could help change the corrupt system and sexual exploitation of children. It’s sex slave market and has a pernicious evil impact on society and family life. Incest is rampant as a result. The church too needs to speak out and fight for the rights of the teeming thousands of sexually abused children as bravely as it is fighting for the unborn. Government has to close down the sex industry but so many politicians visit the establishments, it is not likely to happen any time soon. All who believe in justice have to work to get more of it for children like Michelle.

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