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NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 2003

October 3, 2003 · 

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Dear friends and defenders of children,

Since our last letter in July it has been a busy time. We are helping many more needy children, thanks to your encouragement and support. The work is expanding so is the PREDA team of trained, dedicated staff. We are now 45 and all are busier than ever. Children are continually being rescued from brothels and jails, others helped on the streets and given food, clothing, and protection and sent to school.
Fighting injustice through fair trading
Nothing could be more beautiful than a magnificent mango tree. The PREDA youth group and the PREDA children have been out planting hundreds of fine saplings this year together with the community of indigenous people. The trees are valuable as they bring a good income to a poor family. PREDA distributes thousands of free saplings. This is operated by the fair trade project that gives livelihood to thousands in the villages. The mangos are bought at a fair trade price. Then, they are dried and packed and shipped to the world shops and supermarkets in Europe.

This is how we help many poor farmers and villagers. The handicraft projects are growing, too. Superb bamboo light and delicate furniture is selling well and giving dozens of jobs to the crafts people and their families. The department also funds village projects to improve hygiene and health. Our aim is to change some of the systematic causes of child abuse. Fair trading tackles poverty at the village level that drives families to city slums and on to the streets to beg and be prostituted. By investing money in low-cost loan schemes, we fight poverty so that the poor gain access to capital to start their own livelihood projects and be self-reliant. (Alex Corpus Hermoso- PREDA Co-founder and Programme Director)

The PREDA youth group planting mango saplings with a member of an indigenous community (left). At right are some of the children at PREDA with a volunteer from the Spanish group SETEM.

The PREDA youth group planting mango saplings with a member of an indigenous community (left). At right are some of the children at PREDA with a volunteer from the Spanish group SETEM.

Life in the therapeutic community

While doing what we can to address the underlying causes of poverty and abuse, the child victims can’t be left waiting, we provide immediate help. Thirty-three abused children are recovering at the PREDA Children’s Home and experience a better life of dignity, affirmation and love. They are as active as ever. All are doing reasonably well in school.

Children at PREDA live a happy life at the therapeutic community with love and support from the staff.

Children at PREDA live a happy life at the therapeutic community with love and support from the staff.

One of them, an outstanding student and a strong advocate of child rights, was chosen to participate in the first ever World Congress of Children Against Child Labor in May 2004. This is a follow-up to the Global March against Child Labour that was held in many countries around the world including the Philippines. We all joined that big event and Fr. Shay joined a Philippine delegation to Switzerland to march through Geneva to the International Labor Congress to push the passing of the Convention Against Child Labour. Now, Aira Grace will go to Italy for the World Congress. The children become strong and empowered with the affirmation and training at Preda. They put aside their past experience of abuse and are living active, new lives. Aira Grace and Pia are some shining examples. (Anna-lyn Alvero- Childhood for Children social worker)

Taking A Stand Against Abusers

Some of their abusers are on trial. The paralegal officer and the child’s social worker bring the child by car to the court in distant towns and cities to testify. Two sex club operators, an Australian and an American, are still on trial in Angeles City for trafficking in children. The rescued children,13 and 16 year olds, are recovering at PREDA gaining self-esteem and courage and they are testifying against their exploiters and the pimps. Frustratingly, two British suspects, one a sex bar operator and other a child pornographer, had charges dropped for “insufficient” evidence. Corruption is not unknown.

Presently we are handling twelve active cases against abusers. Others are on hold because the suspected abusers have not been arrested usually because of police incompetence. The system is so slow and cumbersome, it delivers justice only occasionally. The politicians and most of the judiciary and prosecutors don’t really care. We have to fight for justice every inch of the way. If not, then the abuse of children will become an acceptable everyday thing like in the past when no one spoke out and children suffered in silence and darkness, their lives destroyed and damaged. We at PREDA work to never let that era come back again as many secret paedophiles want that to happen. Long delays by the court system allows witnesses to be bribed or lose interest. The children have to wait as long as a year to testify and are then subjected to intense cross-examination. Video relay is not available to protect the child from the angry stares of the defendant. She cannot go home while he is at large threatening her. (Robert Garcia- Paralegal Officer)

Celebration of International Children’s Day

Last September 17th, we had a big ceremony to recognize the achievements of the first Filipino child to stand up in a German court and testify against her abuser. Pia is now an advocate for the rights of abused children. She was first prostituted when only nine years old. When 11, a German sex tourist was arrested for abusing Pia. He escaped from the Philippines in 1996 before being brought to trial.

Pia recovered at the PREDA Children’s Home while we tracked her abuser in Germany and brought him to trial. Pia went there and testified and he was convicted. It was the first case of its kind in Germany.

Missio, the German church agency, publicized her cause as part of the campaign against sex tourism. Pia has inspired thousands with her courage. She is now 19 and studying to be a nursing aide. The vice president of Missio, Armin Ehl, and other Missio staff and media people flew to the Philippines for the celebration. They brought a huge photo-mural with an enlarged photo of Pia surrounded by thousands of photos of German supporters. It was unveiled at PREDA to begin the celebration of International Children’s Day on September 19.

Children at PREDA with Fr. Shay Cullen and Alex Corpus Hermoso with representatives from Missio during the unveiling of the photo mural of Pia Corvera held September 17, 2003.

Children at PREDA with Fr. Shay Cullen and Alex Corpus Hermoso with representatives from Missio during the unveiling of the photo mural of Pia Corvera held September 17, 2003.

The following day, Pia and PREDA social worker Mary David together with Fr. Shay flew to Germany to mark children’s day there with press conferences, TV talk shows and meeting with supportive politicians. The famous former German Minister of Justice and Parliamentarian Herta Daubler-Gmelin told the media she would work to bring to justice every German sex tourist and paedophile protector abusing children, especially a suspected sex mafia boss hiding in the Philippines who is charged in Germany for kidnapping for extortion a German citizen and stole his beach resort with a Swiss couple.

Pia and Fr. Shay were interviewed on the popular Johannes B. Kerner TV talk show together with the wife of the President of Germany. An estimated 2.8 million people watched the show. Fr. Shay called for the German authorities to prosecute the German criminals in the Philippines. The PREDA group was invited to lunch and discussion at the Parliament by Christa Nickels and other members of the Human Rights Committee of the German Bundastag. They nominated PREDA for the Nobel Peace Prize this year. (Mary David- Outreach Social Worker)

The youth speak up

The Public Education team is always on the go. They visit schools and communities building up the awareness and best practice in family life and child protection. They give workshops and seminars to thousands of students and teachers every year. They also have a weekly radio programme for and by the young people. Teenagers have lively debates on every important topic affecting them. The PREDA theatre group whom you heard so much about last time is still active here and putting on great performances in schools and at seminars. They are a great team and help awareness building about the dangers of trafficking in children. They now work on the jail rescue & street contact team.

The children and the youth groups that we train in leadership through the arts and theatre are thriving. We now have a youth choir in training and Fr. Shay is writing the song lyrics for a composer who will put them to music and the children and youth will sing and record it onto a CD. Then, we will want you all to buy them. (Maricel Viloria – Preventive Education and Public Speaking Team)

Volunteers

Last August 2nd was another important day when Martin Link, a young volunteer from Germany, came to stay at PREDA. We are so blessed to have Martin, he is a skilled computer enthusiast and has helped us greatly by designing a whole German language website for PREDA. This involved amazing work and so much translation of documents and newsletters. It is beautifully designed and our friends and supporters have written how good it is. Martin is an excellent photographer and his photos are available on the PREDA website. They are stunning pictures of all our projects.

Edline Brutus is also with us from Canada since September 24th. She has already joined the street contact work, has visited several of the fair trade producer groups and has worked on the human rights arbitrary detention appeal for the United Nations. She is also working on the research project concerning the World Bank funding for the city of Olongapo including funding for social services for women and children. If there is any World Bank money going to OCARE where we discovered children brutally treated and abused and confined in filthy cells in subhuman conditions, the World bank ought to wake up and look to see where its money is going. It is certainly not helping children or needy women in Olongapo. Edline will surely be a great team member and a big help to the work of PREDA. Welcome to both and thanks to their families and friends. (Vangie Damasco- Guest Department)

Fr. Shay Cullen and Pia Corvera in Germany. With them in the photo are former German Minister of Justice Herta Daubler-Gmelin, Armin Ehl of Missio and Guardian Angel supporters.

Fr. Shay Cullen and Pia Corvera in Germany. With them in the photo are former German Minister of Justice Herta Daubler-Gmelin, Armin Ehl of Missio and Guardian Angel supporters.

PREDA at the UN Human Rights Committee hearing

Last October 22, Fr. Shay and two other defenders of human rights were in Geneva. They were invited by the World Organization Against Torture to brief the members of the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the situation of children, women and political detainees in the Philippines. This is the most important UN body monitoring if member states are complying with their obligations to respect and defend human rights. The Philippine government officials were castigated for their failure to provide the information and answers to the concerns of the committee members on the illegal jailing and imprisonment of women and children, the trafficking of minors for sexual exploitation and many other issues. The committee were responding strongly to the briefing of the NGOs. During the briefing, Fr. Shay displayed photographic evidence of the subhuman conditions of illegally jailed minors and women in the Philippines.

The issue of the Davao Death Squads killing street children was raised during the committee questioning. PREDA has been campaigning to end the brutal slaying and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The former Mayor Benjamin de Guzman sued Fr. Shay and the PREDA staff for libel in 2001 but dropped the charges when Fr. Shay said he would not pay bail but would fight the charges from behind bars. The public outcry forced the mayor to retreat and later he lost the election. The case was won by PREDA in a decision by the Department of Justice. Nothing changed with the new mayor. The Death Squad still operates as before and President Macapagal-Arroyo appointed him as a presidential adviser on crime reduction. We are still opposing the violations and raised the matter with the UN Human Rights Committee. Later at a press conference, Fr. Shay gave an interview to the BBC World Service and to other news reporters. (Francis Bermido Jr.- Information Officer)

More children rescued from jails

The Jail Rescue team made 87 visits to 38 jails in the past six months and found 271 minors behind bars. Forty have been rescued and legal and other action is underway to get the others released.

Last October 21, the team went to Navotas in Metro Manila to a prison there. The team was welcomed. They brought food and personal needs for the minors. There are 500 inmates in all. In one cell, we found 17 minors their ages ranging from 13 to 17. Another 33 adult prisoners some of them criminals were in the same cell. The small over-crowded cell was stifling hot and humid. There is a single toilet bowl. The youth and children have to sleep on the concrete floor, eat with their hands from a common pot. They are totally impoverished and had not even a toothbrush or a change of t-shirt. Some were half-naked. Many have been illegally detained. The prison, built on an estuary, is frequently flooded and the detainees have to climb up on metal stools to escape the disease-bearing waters for days on end. (Mina Bocalbos, Joan Conanan, Jackie Agunyon- Jail Rescue Team)

Empowering abused children

The PREDA investigation into the conditions of women and children in the government-run Olongapo Center for Assistance, Rehabilitation and Empowerment (OCARE) as earlier reported gathered evidence of widespread abuse of human rights of the children and women. They were beaten, punched, slapped, hit with wooden and bamboo clubs, made to eat left over food, jailed in a stench-filled cell with an overflowing toilet hole and no ventilation windows. They lay on the cement floor and were at time made to reach outside the bars to eat the substandard food. Many PREDA supporters of children’s rights wrote to the Philippine authorities in disgust demanding an end to the abuses and an investigation. The national authorities said they would prosecute OCARE personnel and sent three government lawyers to take the statements of the children. PREDA organized a three-day workshop at the beach resort for the street children who were abused for them to talk with the lawyers. It may not be possible to have the street children testify as they can be picked up by the police, threatened and intimidated. PREDA is offering protection in a safe haven.

Street children formerly jailed in OCARE with members of the PREDA Jail Rescue Team during the workshop conducted on October 6-8 (left). A lawyer from the DSWD interviews one of the children (right).

Street children formerly jailed in OCARE with members of the PREDA Jail Rescue Team during the workshop conducted on October 6-8 (left). A lawyer from the DSWD interviews one of the children (right).

The biggest news is that the newly renovated home for children rescued from the prisons and cells will come into operation the third week of November. We are forming a coalition with the charitable agencies working for the jailed children and they urgently want to send the children from the prisons here. We know you will support this work with your heart and soul. We need your prayers and support to give these children a better life than the filthy stench of abusive cells and overcrowded jails. We are winning and turning back the practice of abuse day-by-day, week by week. Thank you for being with us. Through you, God reaches out to the least of our brothers and sisters. “When I was in prison, you came to visit me. Whatever you do to one of these, you do to me,” these words we must never forget for by them we are judged in this life and the next.

Peace and blessings,

Fr. Shay Cullen, the staff and children at PREDA

Contact PREDA Foundation at:
Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines 2200;
email: predainfo@preda.org shaycullen@preda.org
tel.: (+63) 47 223 9629 – 30
fax: (+63) 47 223 9628
websites: www.preda.org, www.preda.net

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