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PREDA NEWSLETTER December 2002 and New Year 2003

December 30, 2002 · 

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Dear Friends,

From all of us at PREDA Children’s Home and Human Rights Center we wish you a very meaningful Christmas and a New Year that will see the spirit of Justice growing stronger in your hearts and in the world.

Many may lose hope that peace will ever come, that acts of protest violence and the violence of nature will end. We stand together to bring more justice into the world especially this Christmas when we see what is happening in many parts of the world especially in Palestine. The Holy Land is in ruins and chaos, its people at war. The Birthplace of Jesus Christ was desecrated by the fighting and hundreds of homes destroyed and so many killed in the senseless violence.

Jesus was born into such a world. There were warring factions, a mighty foreign power, rebels called Zealots, and the dominating political and religious elite all jockeying for control and some trying to unseat King Herod and overturn his despotic rule. Jesus and the many innocent children became his latest victims that first Christmas and Jesus and his parents fled as refugees and asylum seekers looking for refuge and hope after the three wise men left.

This Christmas we are challenged to examine our attitudes to the poor who are fleeing every kind of oppression and deprivation. If a ragged couple with a hungry child showed up on our doorstep this Christmas would you give them a welcome, or turn them away, telling them there is no room at your Inn? Or would you call the immigration police? How would they fare today if they did turn up? No better perhaps than the hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees being held in detention center across Britain, Ireland, Australia and other countries. How quickly we have forgotten our own history of economic migration.

 What good did the three wise men do? It took an angel to realize the danger and warn Joseph in a dream that the troops were coming to slaughter them and to get away. My favorite way of looking at the three wise men is to ask what if they were three wise women? They would have brought cooked food, clean diapers, and the skills of a Midwife. They would have cleaned the stable, prepared a meal, shoved the animals out of the way and given sound advice about childcare.

 They would be strong, empowered women and able to see through the evil intentions of the tyrant Herod and they would have escorted the new born to a safe haven. They would have filed charges against Herod for child abuse and organize a non-violent rally. But the men, they brought unusable gold, it was probably a crime to posses it, and the inedible incense and myrrh. So impractical.

Today we have to be practical and work for peace as Jesus did, by awaking people to the causes of violence all around and to see its roots in injustice and the deprivation and the oppression of the powerful over the weak. The scandal of Christianity is that a wealthy few in the world possess so much while the rest go hungry. The image of Jesus born in poverty and fleeing as a refugee pursued by killers is not unlike reality today in many parts of the world, a reminder that we have to address the greed for power and wealth that is the root cause of poverty and injustice, that is the source of hatred and violence. Our pursuit of non-violence and peace making is what Christmas is all about.

Gift giving fosters and strengthens friendship and family bonds but extravagant gift giving that is ostentatious and prestige building is meaningless. It becomes wasteful flouting of wealth. We ought to be out and about doing our charity work helping people in need.

This Christmas let us think of those who live in rags and go hungry everyday, have no home or job and are the wretched of the earth. Jesus was among them and whatsoever we do for them, we do for him, keeping alive his spirit of total generosity and helping others without seeking personal rewards. It is that spirit that we pray will fill you this Christmas and bring you inner peace and happiness.

Fr. Shay, the PREDA Team and the children.

Youth and Theater

We have been busy too with many activities for the young people to give them a chance to develop and grow as mature human persons. The PREDA-AKBAY theater group is active in training and making performances. Several members of the PREDA Children’s Home turned out to be terrific actors and put on a splendid performance. This is an empowering and character building artistic experience for them. They will be performing over Christmas and then travel to Switzerland and Germany (perhaps to Ireland) next May and June they will join the big Protestant-Catholic day of unity in Berlin. As you know all theological differences between Protestants and Catholics in Europe has been more or less resolved two years ago. Unity in diversity is the present policy and the Berlin festivities will be attended by hundreds of thousands of German Christians. The great event will be that we will all be able to share in the Eucharist together.

 

Our youth organization has been very active also in managing a weekly radio programme on local radio on subjects of interest to young people. It is a open discussion by young participants gathered in the studio.

The PREDA Education Team has been non-stop in conducting workshops and seminars for students and parents on children’s rights, child abuse, drug abuse and HIV-AIDS prevention and good parenting. This year they have had as many as ten thousand direct participants attending their seminars. This is having a great impact on the community and saving thousands of young people from falling into temptation and promiscuous sexual behavior that is dangerous and emotionally irresponsible. “Loving faithfully is loving safely” is the message to married couples.

Jail Visits and Rescuing Children

 

 

The PREDA Jail Rescue Team swooped down 31 times on 16 jails in the past several months where minors as young as ten and twelve are held in dungeon like subhuman conditions. The team drove as far north as Trinidad and Baguio City and across Central Luzon. However a bright spot was the Tarlac and the Pampanga provincial jails. There were found on inspection to be clean and orderly and had moved the minors out to a rehabilitation center. The others were dangerous to the health and well being of the children and would constitute a violation of human rights. Besides all the minors had been deprived of their legal and constitutional rights and were in some case detained unlawfully. The team is working on all the cases having got the court files. Most judges are helpful and cooperative. Others feel threatened and are defensive.

The Department of Social Welfare Regional Director expressed the hope that PREDA would provide a center for as many as 100 young teenagers in conflict with the law as their rehabilitation centers were over flowing. PREDA has asked the office of the Chairman of the Subic Bay Freeport, that is the former US naval base (that PREDA helped close down and convert into a vast industrial park), to give us a building to house the jailed minors in decency and dignity. He agreed and so next year we hope to have a home for these traumatized children and move them from the prisons to a new life with therapy and education and sports. Who knows, we will surely find new theater talent too.

 

Helping these children is essential. Many live with mosquitoes & cockroaches and disease is easily spread in overcrowded cells where there are as many as twenty inmates in a small room.

TB, malaria, skin diseases are common and sexual abuse by bigger inmates is frequent. In Cebu City for example, this November an 11-year-old boy was gang-raped several times by the older boys in a crowded cell. It is essential to get these children to safety.

The legal cases of the sexually abused children at PREDA are some of the most problematic. There is so much skullduggery in the judicial system between lawyers, judges and prosecutors favoring the accused against the interests of the victims that it is very frustrating to fight for justice for the children. It is also so expensive. We drove to a courtroom three hours and an overnight stay and then were told in the court after 3 hours sitting there that the case has been postponed. This for the 4th time. In one year there might be only two hearings. This is all part of a common wicked plan and strategy by the accused to delay proceedings so the child is released from PREDA and then the accused or his family will threaten her to withdraw the rape charge. Because of this we cannot release the child into that dangerous situation. She continues in PREDA going to school and overcoming the ill effects of the sexual abuse.

The newer children are still encouraged to seek justice and tell the truth. There are mock trials at PREDA wherein the children experience going into the witness stand before a select audience. This is to give the child a chance to know what to expect in a real courtroom and to be ready and confident. This we had last week for four children and they were able to testify directly and with courage when they were cross-examined by a nasty defense counsel. There is no system of child-friendly courtrooms in the Philippines. This we would like to introduce but funding is the problem here. So until then we have to strengthen and empower the children to face their accuser in court and tell how they were abused, traumatic as that can be. But the children are so determined that we have to support and admire their courage. This becomes a healing experience for them in time especially when we get a conviction of their abuser. They need help and support if and when the abuser is acquitted. We have had several convictions and some acquittals in the past year.

As you know legal action against foreign paedophiles and leaders of the sex mafia takes up a lot of our time too. It is dangerous at times because they can get nasty when we succeed in convicting one of their customers or we help authorities close down brothels selling children for sex. This news spreads back to the country of origin of the sex tourist and prevents others coming. That means millions of pesos can be lost yearly by the sex tourist business so they want to get rid of PREDA and close us down. They harass us with the help of local politicians who deny us permits and brought in the past deportation charges against us.

The city of Olongapo is the most uncooperative city and officials have tried to impede our work for years. They deny there is Paedophile and sex exploitation of children in the area but the truth is very different. Last week an American, suspected Paedophile was arrested at the local beach where our sex mafia leader has his bar and restaurant. We have charges pending against a German sex mafia leader and the Bureau of Immigration has ordered charges to be brought against him. Yet he is influential and can bribe his way out. We believe that he is also wanted in Germany on extortion charges. But there is no way to confirm this. I had two meetings in Berlin last September and October with the most helpful officials of the Ministry of Justice asking them to investigate this suspect. He was behind the many false and baseless legal complaints that have been filed against myself and the PREDA staff. Most have been defeated but we still have many to contend with from this corrupt and depraved group of suspected sex traffickers.

Fitzgerald Case: An Example

The sex mafia set out to discredit and damage the credibility of the PREDA workers and claimed that Australian Keith Fitzgerald, a Paedophile convicted of abusing children on his yacht in Subic Bay was in fact falsely charged and framed up by the PREDA staff. The sex mafia led by the German national based here in Olongapo City, with the support of the local city officials, who appointed him as liaison officer for the city, connived to have a retrial for Fitzgerald. The children disappeared from PREDA Children’s Home and ended up in the brothels of the city prostituted. Soon they were brought to Manila to reverse their testimony against Fitzgerald claiming that PREDA forced them to tell lies and offered them payments to lie. This was totally disproved by the Court of Appeals and Fitzgerald was given additional years in prison and PREDA exonerated.

Then a convicted Australian Paedophile was released from jail with the help of the local bishop of Iba, Zambales and some clergy led by an Australian priest assigned to the diocese and working in Olongapo City. The Bishop and some clergy swore an affidavit of support to the court alleging that we at PREDA may have over stepped the bounds, and framed Fitzgerald despite the fact that the Court of Appeals had already exonerated us. So the Australian priest showed up to pay a special bail bond for the release of Fitzgerald and escorted him together with the German sex mafia leader out of the jail. Then weeks of giving testimony followed supposedly to prove he was innocent. But it was a repeat of previous testimony by the children and nothing new except the bishop testified that he believes the Paedophile was innocent despite a conviction after a 2-year trial and exhaustive defense.

So all the PREDA staff are disgusted at this and the fact that it is an unjust criticism and a baseless accusation of the bishop against our work. Of course there is fear among some of the clergy and perhaps the bishop that we may one day be assisting children abused by a member of the clergy and to have us discredited beforehand might be to their liking.

Now the latest development, and that is why I am telling you this story, is that the evidence taken by the local court is finished and we were ready to give counter evidence but the lawyer for Fitzgerald, paid by the sex mafia and perhaps the diocese failed to formally offer the evidence to the court and thus to make it official evidence to benefit his client.

Inexplicably, he failed to do it by the court’s deadline. Thus last week the Judge ordered that the so called “evidence” be transcribed and submitted to the Court of Appeals for their consideration without our side having been able to submit any counter evidence. This is the state of the rule of law in the Philippines. It means that the Court of Appeal has no real evidence formally submitted and should overrule any retrial. That means the whole submission of evidence for Fitzgerald was a sham and he should be returned to jail to serve out his sentence. Presently he is seen riding a bike around the city. We don’t know what the Court of Appeals will do with the statements of the Bishop and priests supporting Fitzgerald and the reversed testimony of the victims. They want to exonerate the convicted Paedophile and condemn PREDA!?

Remembrance

This November 1st and 12th all the friends and staff and the children at the PREDA Center held a special remembrance day with prayers and a Eucharistic celebration to especially remember all those who returned to their Creator and whose spirit of life and love is still with us and dearly remembered.

The parents of Fr. Shay, especially his mother who died this time last year. The co-founder, board member and financial officer of the PREDA Foundation for 28 years of service, wife of Alex Corpus Hermoso, the programme director, was also remembered at this time. We gave thanks for having known them and having received their love and goodness, and for the life and joy they brought into the world for us all to share. They are sadly missed yet it is a privilege to be their friends and their spirit will live forever.

Have a Happy Christmas and remember the children in jail & at PREDA!

Christmas Gifts can be sent to:

Friends of PREDA Children
P.O. Box 284
Sligo Post Office
Sligo, Ireland

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Copyright ©1997 * All Rights Reserved * PREDA FOUNDATION INC. * Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines*

Copyright ©1997 * All Rights Reserved * PREDA FOUNDATION INC. * Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines*

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