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PREDA NEWSLETTER April – June 2001

June 2, 2001 · 

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Dear Friends and Supporters,

We regret not having sent you updated news about the PREDA activities before now. It has been a hectic six months and we can only report some of the highlights here. If you need more details about anything in the newsletter, please write to us or send e-mail to predainfo@preda.org.

Rescuing Prostituted Children- A Personal Account by Fr. Shay Cullen

The glow of the neon lights from the tourists’ belt lit the street corner where pimps and traffickers ply their trade-selling children into prostitution. I was there with a visitor from Ireland. Within minutes, a neatly dressed woman approached and offered us two 11 year-old children for sex. She named her price, one hundred dollars for each child, plus an additional payment for the brothel operator called the mamasan where the children were being kept.

We agreed to meet in a few days at a restaurant. I arranged with the police to set a trap. They did, pretending to be taxi drivers outside and customers inside. A woman officer led them from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), with whom we coordinate our rescue and investigative activities. I went into the restaurant with my friend and saw the two kids. They looked ten or eleven. The mamasan, a middle-aged woman was guarding them.

The smartly dressed pimp came over and all went outside. Then the mamasan brought the children down the road and out of the police trap. They were playing “hard to get” as the pimp bargained for more money. It was an example of slave-trading children of the worst kind. We agreed to pay more and the pimp left to get the children but failed to return.
While we were waiting near the car park a male pimp offered us two 12-year-old children, he named his price and left. After twenty minutes he came back with two young twelve-year olds and took the marked money I offered. I nodded to the waiting police and social workers. They immediately arrested the pimp and rescued the two children. A new better life awaits them. The pimp will be tried in court. We hope to find the other children that were taken by the mamasan but it will be no easy task. The operation was videotaped with a hidden camera so that tourism officials cannot deny that child prostitution is still rampant in the Philippines and much has to be done to end sex tourism. Foreign sex tourists offer huge sums for children more than locals do.

International Media Interest

Earlier this year, a Dutch Television team, two German teams, a Spanish crew and another Irish unit worked with PREDA. They were all making separate documentaries on the prevalence of child prostitution and the work of PREDA to help the victims and stop the trade. The German film was broadcasted last May 23 and the others later this year. They all found widespread evidence of trafficking and selling of children into prostitution. If you want a video on the work and life of children in PREDA, please write.

German Parliamentarians Join Nobel Nomination for PREDA

The Nobel Peace Prize nomination for PREDA brought the plight of the prostituted children even greater prominence. Two German Parliamentarians, Peter Weiss MP and Mrs. Karen Koffmann MP have also made their separate nominations for PREDA to the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Oslo. They will visit PREDA later this year. Scottish MP Nigel Griffiths made the first nomination. I met with him recently in London. He is now a minister for small business and arms control in the new Cabinet of Tony Blair.

Bishop and Clergy Supports Retrial of Convicted Pedophile

Another issue drawing media attention is the retrial of the convicted pedophile, Australian Victor Keith Fitzgerald. PREDA rescued his victims in 1994 and protected them throughout the original trial. He was sentenced after a long trial over almost two years.

The victims were then lured out of the PREDA Children’s Home and were

brought under the influence of the supporters of Fitzgerald. They were prostituted and were made to sign papers withdrawing their testimony, which were used for the appeal of Fitzgerald’s case. It was claimed that Fr. Shay influenced the children to give false testimony against Fitzgerald but no proof was offered. The Court of Appeals rejected that and said the allegation was absurd and the children most likely did it for money. Fr. Shay was exonerated from this false allegation and the court denied the appeal of Fitzgerald. His sentence was even increased from eight to twenty years. The victims are now over 18 years old.

Then, Fitzgerald’s supporters successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to grant Fitzgerald a retrial. The retrial is most probably the result of lobbying by the Bishop of Iba, Zambales and some of his clergy on behalf of Fitzgerald. They signed a legal affidavit that was used to persuade the Supreme Court to allow a retrial.

The Bishop said in his affidavit that. Fr. Shay and by implication the PREDA staff, “…might have exceeded the bounds…” and influenced the children into giving false testimony against Fitzgerald. We said the Bishop’s efforts ought to help the many victims of sexual abuse rather than reverse hard won convictions of child sexual abusers. The retrial is unlikely to end in an acquittal. No date has been set for it.

BID Orders Charges to be Filed Against Hartmut Joost and Markus Widmer

They are the main accusers against PREDA and have cases against them. They have filed baseless charges against PREDA. We made further legal complaints to the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID). The Associate Commissioner Linda Malenab-Hornilla of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation signed a resolution against Hartmut “Harry” Joost. The resolution says: “…we direct the Chief of the Legal Division to cause the preparation of a Charge Sheet against Hartmut “Harry” Joost for undesirability, overstaying and for being an undocumented alien…” Likewise the resolution against Markus Widmer says: “… Undersigned hereby orders the Chief of the Legal Division to direct the Special Prosecutor to cause the preparation of the Charge Sheet against Markus Leo Widmer for overstaying, for giving false testimony constituting undesirability and for drug trafficking…”

Child Rights Advocate Appointed Judge

The provincial and special prosecutor for child abuse cases in Olongapo, Dorentino Floresta, who successfully prosecuted Fitzgerald, has been appointed a Regional Trial Court Judge in a neighboring province.

PREDA has worked closely with the prosecutor over the previous years and will continue to work with his court in Gapan, Nueva Ecija by offering protection and therapeutic services to child victims with cases against their abusers.

Davao Libel Case Dismissed

In September 1999, PREDA protested to the Mayor of Davao City in the Southern Philippines about the execution of street children by a shadowy death squad. The letter was supported by hundreds of child rights supporters through the Internet, many wrote letters and faxed their support of the protest. The mayor filed libel charges against Fr. Shay and his staff.

After a lengthy legal battle, the Mayor withdrew his complaint and it was later dismissed by the Department of Justice. PREDA had worked in solidarity with the Davao-based Children’s Rights groups who had appealed for the help of PREDA. No more youth or children have been executed since the campaign. The mayor was voted out of office in the May elections.

Defender of Human Rights Defenders

PREDA’s Defender of Human Rights Defenders campaign to the UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson and Hina Jilani, the UN special Rapporteur has received a response from Geneva.

The UN requested more detailed information about the harassment against PREDA workers. The campaign is to enlist the support of the UN Human Rights Commission to persuade the Philippine Government to implement, through legal measures, such as through Ombudsman or a Special State Prosecutor for Human Rights Defenders, the 1998 UN Declaration defending Human Rights Defenders from threats, intimidation and harassment by legal suites. The Philippine Human Rights Commission appears not to know about this declaration, to which the Philippines is a signatory.

PREDA staffers are victims of threats and harassment by legal suites coming from organized pedophile supporters and suspects. Sixty-one false cases were filed in the past three years against PREDA staffers, fifty-three were won and dismissed. A petition addressed to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo requesting that the Department of Justice act on the motions of PREDA to dismiss other harassment charges is on-going.

Volunteers and Visitors

Becky Dobson, a volunteer from Britain has been at PREDA for a year and worked with the social workers at the Children’s Home. She has helped improve the non-formal educational services for the children and implemented a project of the Visitors Services Overseas (VSO) to improve the children’s library at PREDA. Becky returns to the UK this August with all our thanks and appreciation.

PREDA children with Fr. Shay, volunteer Becky and social workers during their visit to Doulos - the world's famous library ship.

PREDA children with Fr. Shay, volunteer Becky and social workers during their visit to Doulos - the world's famous library ship.

Christina Farrington from Sligo in Ireland volunteered her holiday to be with the PREDA Children this June for three weeks and has returned to Ireland. Christina will continue supporting the work of PREDA to increase the public awareness of children’s rights in Ireland. We look forward to working together in the future.

Public Education, Youth Organizing and Theater Group

Thousands of young people have been attending the integrated preventive seminars on HIV-AIDS, drug and child abuse. The PREDA education team of three also coordinates the training of the Youth Theater group. Their musical drama tells a story of trafficking in children for sexual exploitation and how it can be prevented. They will again tour the musical drama in Germany and Austria this autumn. Last year, they went to 28 towns and cities in Germany. Another PREDA theater group is now ready to make similar presentations around the Philippines. Youth development training is conducted throughout the province year round. PREDA sponsored the Diocesan youth pilgrimage this year and provided funds and orientation to them.

PREDA Children’s Home News

Nine children undergoing recovery at the PREDA Children’s home graduated from elementary school this march and one graduated from High School. These are remarkable achievements by these children who are victims of abuse and who suffered severe emotional and psychological disturbance. It is clear evidence that they are on the road of recovery.

Several recovered children have been reintegrated with their families where it is now safe. Meanwhile, a group of eight children will travel to Japan as guests of a sheltered workshop for handicapped children in Kufou City led by Masao Tagaya, a campaigner for Human Rights and a supporter of the PREDA’s work. They will stay
with families there and have a holiday visiting Disneyland and other exciting events. During the summer, there were trips to the children’s theme park, and other resorts.

The children living their dreams – ready to go to school with the new jeepney.

The children living their dreams - ready to go to school with the new jeepney.

The children living their dreams - ready to go to school with the new jeepney.

Extension to the Children’s Home Opened

Last March, the new extension building of the Children’s Home was completed and formally opened by the director of Kindernothilfe, Dr., Werner Hoerschelmann. He spent a weekend at PREDA meeting the children and learning more about the services that Kindernothilfe have supported. This will give greater security and more facilities to the children and the staff.

New Jeepney for Children From Japanese Friends

A new jeepney was donated by a group of PREDA supporters led by Sanae Nomura. They made lots of sacrifices and worked hard to raise the cost of the jeepney which is now used to bring the children to school and on beach and other field trips. The logo of the Japanese group “Live your Dreams” is painted on the sides of the colorful vehicle.

Children with visiting Christina Farrington

Children with visiting Christina Farrington

Children with visiting Christina Farrington

PREDA International Advocacy Campaigns

The Famous German City of Weimer has supported PREDA’s campaign for children’s rights. The city council awarded PREDA with a Human Rights award last December. In January Fr. Shay also went to Weimer to attend a civic reception in his honor, there was wide publicity. He was brought to the former concentration camp of Burchenwald where the Human Rights of so many were cruelly violated. The city has set up a national education program about it. In January, Fr. Shay also went to New York and made a presentation at the Fordham Law School, Human Rights Project. In the University of the Philippines, he made a similar presentation to the graduate students of the Psychology department.

In February, Fr. Shay went to Brussels to present workshop and seminars on Fair Trade and street children to World Shop Volunteers and went to Italy for a meeting in Verona with Fair Trade partners CTM.

In April, he was in Italy for ten days giving seminars and was awarded the Human Rights Award in the City of Ferrara. It was sponsored by the fairtrade partner Commercio Alternativo. In Rome, he made presentations and helped promote a book in Italian about the work of PREDA written by a famous writer and editor Stefano Vechia. This is very popular in the Vatican.

In June, Fr. Shay was the guest of the German Protestant Church Day Festival and made a presentation during the opening to an audience of five thousand. He was especially invited by the organizers to deliver a message during the closing ceremonies and liturgy at a football stadium. His audience was over 120,000 people, covered by national television. The Catholic Cardinal of Berlin also announced that the Church Day Festival would be in Berlin in 2003 and would be a joint festival between Catholics and Protestants. The invitation for Fr. Shay to give his message was seen as the total approval and support of the churches for his work and international campaign to end the sexual abuse of children.

That’s all for now. See you next issue.

Every Best Wish,

Fr. Shay Cullen, the children and staff

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