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PREDA NEWSLETTER July 2003

July 3, 2003 · 

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Dear friends and defenders of children’s rights,

Theatre tour in Europe
It has been a busy and interesting last few months for all of us at PREDA. In May a group of eight youth members of the PREDA-Akbay Theatre Group led by Rene P. Onrubia Jr. of the PREDA Preventive Education Department left for a tour of four countries in Europe- Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Ireland. They gave 31 powerful and well-received performances of the musical drama “Once We Had a Dream”. This tells a gripping story of the international trafficking and abuse of teenagers lured from an impoverished village where families are mired in debt. The minors, Celina and others, are recruited with the promise of good safe jobs abroad only to be forced into the slavery of prostitution.

The story tells of the determination of a young man, Alex, to find Celina, his childhood sweetheart. With the help of a charitable organization he goes abroad and together they rescue her and others from the sex mafia, but not without a tragic end that gives away to hope. Fr. Shay accompanied the group for most of the tour and helped by giving talks and interviews with the media together with the players.

The tour was sponsored by our partners and supporting organizations and each generously shared the costs and provided the venues for the shows. Audiences gave standing ovations in many places and many people related how they were deeply touched by the sincerity and powerful emotional expression of the players.

Media coverage
Newspapers, magazines, radio and television reported the impact of the play with photos and interviews. The players had a relaxing time too. They visited the circus in Duisburg, with Ute Penzel of Kinder Not Hilfe. They visited the Brandenburg gate and the site of the Berlin Wall with Mission. They went to several cities in Switzerland and spent a day in the Swiss Alps riding cable cars and the alpine railway and hiking in the shadow of the glaciers. Thanks to Caritas. In the spectacular city of Barcelona, they were welcomed by the members of Stem. Then in Ireland, our friends Christina Farrington, Neil McHugh, Pat Ridge, Father Derek Doyle and his sister, Dr. Ann Murphy and many others treated the group to a scenic tour, special dinners, a cultural show and great hospitality. Our heartfelt thanks to all and those who came to the shows. (Rene P. Onrubia- Advocacy Theater)

The PREDA Theater Group with Järg Krumennascher, director of Caritas Switzerland, who presented the international award to PREDA.

The PREDA Theater Group with Järg Krumennascher, director of Caritas Switzerland, who presented the international award to PREDA.

Caritas Award for PREDA and children
Then on July 10, Caritas Switzerland presented PREDA with its international award given to those “who have achieved outstanding merit in the social field, development cooperation or intercultural understanding.” The presentation was made in the new Lucerne Culture and Congress Center. This is in recognition of the energy and effort of the PREDA team of child rights workers to change the lives of many abused children from one of misery and suffering to happiness and freedom. We accept and welcome these awards in the name of the children, we want to honour their struggle and courage, and not our personal efforts. The award puts these children and their need for healing, protection and justice into sharp public focus and thereby higher on the priority list of politicians, law enforcers and legislators.

The several European awards and the three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize for PREDA’s work from British, Canadian and German parliamentarians does help to give importance to the goals that we are trying to achieve for children. The awards strengthen and validate the credibility of all of us at PREDA in the face of the critics and skeptics who debunk our honest efforts.

Children in the Preda Therapeutic Community with Fr. Shay.

Children in the Preda Therapeutic Community with Fr. Shay.

The nominators and award giving bodies have thoroughly researched and scrutinized with due diligence our methods, achievements and adherence to moral principles. Our partners and supporters across Europe likewise have strict monitoring and accountability criteria that we strive to meet and we have their trust and support. The PREDA acceptance speech for the Caritas Award can be sent on request or read at www.preda.org. (Francis Bermido – Information Office)

Youth development work
While the theatre group was spreading the good news in Europe, the training team in the Philippines continued its youth education work. Every week the youth volunteers have a one-hour radio programmed, family values training, workshop and seminars for parents on responsible parenthood. They organized more than 50 children to participate in a mango festival where the Akbay (meaning “standing together”) presented their famous puppet show. Hundreds of children and adults were enthralled by this show. It’s a very effective educational medium. They learn about children’s rights and how to protect themselves from abuse. (Maricel Viloria- Preventive Education Programme)

Happy children’s home thrives on love and care
The children’s home for abused and neglected children is thriving with non-stop educational and inspirational activities, fun and games. The volunteers Christina Farrington from Sligo in Ireland and Christina Roesl from Valencia in Spain gave their full annual vacation to come and be with the children for several weeks. This is always a highlight of their summer vacation. They go on outings to the beach and movies and picnics. There are 32 children and they are now back in school and are driven daily in their multi-colored jeepney to and from school donated by our supporters in Japan.

A happy success story for Len-Len
After her parents separated when she was only six years old, Len-Len’s mother sold her to a man in Manila. He abused her and this caused her severe traumatic and emotional problems. She was eventually rescued when she was 12 years old and had totally forgotten where she had come from and who her parents were. When she was brought to the PREDA Children’s Home, she underwent years of therapy and gradually recovered and began to remember her hometown.

PREDA outreach social workers eventually found her father, brothers and sisters in a remote village at the southern end of Luzon Island. They lived near the beach in a small bamboo house. It was an emotional homecoming when Len-len was brought there. Financial support is being provided to help her continue her studies. A toilet was built for the family to help them maintain a sanitary environment. We continue to keep in contact and hope all goes well now that she is reunited with her family. (Mary David- Outreach)

Rescuing children from prison
Ninety youth of the PREDA-Akbay youth organization participated in an annual sports festival, a summer camp, a spiritual recollection, livelihood training workshops and leadership and business management training. Besides all this, they are trained to participate in the ‘Children in Prison’ Rescue Programmed. They visit prisons all over Central Luzon, locate minors illegally or unlawfully detained in dehumanizing conditions and alert the PREDA legal team which then acts to get the children out or into the custody of a rehabilitation home. There are no more places to accept them.

PREDA is now planning to open a home for the younger children and the most vulnerable children in jails. Some are as young as eight years old and are held in jails with adults where they are in danger of being sexually abused. Last month the rescue team found a 13-year-old girl behind bars in filthy subhuman conditions in the Olongapo City Jail. She was crying to get out because a male guard had tried to force her into the toilets with him. She resisted and was beaten on the leg with a stick that opened a festering wound. The team arrived just in time to get her out.

Children and youth participants to the Summer Art & Sports Camp 2003, playing tug of war.

Children and youth participants to the Summer Art & Sports Camp 2003, playing tug of war.

These children seldom commit serious crimes but can be arrested for being homeless (vagrancy), breaking the curfew for minors or detained for sniffing glue, which they use to forget their hunger and pain. Some are falsely accused and forced to confess so the police can claim to have solved a crime.

Child victims testify against sex traffickers
The court cases against the American and Australian sex bar owners in Angeles City and three of their traffickers are progressing. One of the children, only 13 years old, has finished her testimony about how she was sold into the sex den by her mother and then rescued during a police raid with the help of the International Justice Mission. The children were brought to PREDA Children’s Home for protection and therapy. She bravely told her story to the court and it stood up to severe cross-examination. Three more child victims have yet to testify and as they are recovering well from their traumatic experience of sex slavery they too will be strong witnesses.

The accused could get long jail sentences for trafficking the children. This does not endear them to PREDA, and we can expect retaliation. I tell you, we have our detractors who seldom fail to speak badly of us and to bring false accusations against us. Those most adversely affected by our work are the human traffickers, brothel operators and abusers. We have brought many child abusers to justice and to prison and some have vowed revenge. It was no easier for Jesus who was executed on false accusations. We take strength from him as our model.

Despite threats of retaliation from the sex mafia and public criticism from a mayor, we won’t give up. We ask your prayers and support as we now move forward to challenge the system that imprisons and dehumanizes children in conflict with the law. (Robert Garcia – Legal Assistance)

Dismissal of fabricated charges upheld by Supreme Court
Several years ago Fr. Shay brought two suspects to justice for allegedly sexually abusing a six-year old child. In order to force Fr. Shay to withdraw the complaint, the families of the two young men with the help of a sex bar operator with a grudge against Fr. Shay fabricated false evidence to counter charge him with the crime.

This is a common defense tactic in the Philippines used to save themselves from being prosecuted by blaming their accuser. Fr. Shay refused to withdraw and abandon the pursuit of justice for the child victim and had to suffer the consequence – the pain and humiliation of being falsely accused of the very crime that he had brought to justice. This was the most painful injustice of all. They immediately demanded an arrest warrant but this was never served.

However despite this disgusting tactic, it failed and Fr. Shay’s complaint against the two suspects was upheld and they were arraigned and charged in court with the abuse of the six-year old.

Their counter complaint against Fr. Shay was investigated and reinvestigated by the Office of the Public Prosecutor to establish the truth and the complaint brought by the families of the two suspects was found to be false and fabricated. It was dismissed twice by the Office of the Regional Prosecutor and when this was challenged on appeal it was dismissed again at the highest level of the Department of Justice – the Presidential Legal Office.

This decision was again legally challenged by the families of the two young men in a last desperate effort to save them but the Supreme Court dismissed this challenge as defective and without merit in July this year. So the original decision of the Department of Justice and the Presidential Legal Office completely exonerating Fr. Shay from the baseless complaint finally cleared his name at the highest level of justice. The two young men consistently accused by the child must now face trial.

Students from Sweden reveal shocking treatment of children
A group of students from a Red Cross school in Sweden visited the Olongapo Center for Assistance, Rehabilitation and Empowerment (OCARE) for women and children in need of help which is under the government and were shocked when they discovered four cells where women and children were imprisoned in conditions degrading to human dignity. They also discovered that children as young as eight were also held for periods in these cells. They wrote their reports and these were sent out to human rights organizations asking that changes be made.

Two women arbitrarily detained in OCARE, (left). Stinking toilet hole inside a cell, blocked with feces and crawling with insects, (right).

Two women arbitrarily detained in OCARE, (left). Stinking toilet hole inside a cell, blocked with feces and crawling with insects, (right).

There were reactions from all over the world and wide publicity about the terrible abuse of the children and women. As a result the boys and girls’ home on the outskirts of the city was immediately renovated and the evidence of chains and locks were swept away before investigators could arrive. However, the Swedish students and church workers had already made a photo documentation of the conditions and taped interviews with the women and children before the cover up.

From May-June 2003 alone, 29 jails were visited in three provinces and two cities and 20 minors were found. The youngest was 11 years old; two were 13 and the rest from 15 to 17. Three were girls. Most jails are not fit for human detention and violate human rights standards.

Others are horrific. In the Taytay Provincial Jail, we found a small room with hardly any ventilation, dirty and so overcrowded that the men and boys had to lie down in rotation. There were six minors there. Since the visit and the report we made, there has been a transfer of many prisoners and improved conditions. The PREDA legal team is getting the authorities to review the legal status of the minors to get them released.

Two minors in OCARE secretly jailed with no beds, sanitation, sufficient air and light, (left). A boy padlocked inside secret cells, (right).

Two minors in OCARE secretly jailed with no beds, sanitation, sufficient air and light, (left). A boy padlocked inside secret cells, (right).

Visitors and volunteers
This June-July, we welcomed intern students for international law Caroline Wawzoneck from Toronto and Miriam Dela hunt from Ireland. They made major contributions to the PREDA programmed. Our heartfelt thanks to them and for their many efforts when they are back in their home countries to promote the goals of PREDA. Columban Father Ricci Pajarillo visited with 13 Columban priests to have a visit and orientation on the programmed for children’s rights at PREDA. Columban Fr. Michael Riordan visited with nineteen Korean visitors. In May, Columban Father Larry Pangan with a group of Japanese students joined the PREDA youth in a tree-planting project with the organized ethnic Aeta group. Our trading partner DWP from Ravensburg in Germany came with a TV crew to make a documentary on the programmes for children and Preda fair trade project. Many more guests came and stayed to enjoy the peace and serenity of PREDA and the beautiful views and hill walks. (Vangie Damasco – Guest Department)

Our internship and volunteer program is still open for legal students and new lawyer graduates. As one young lawyer said while at PREDA fighting for justice for children, “this is what I became a lawyer for, this is my happiest time.”

With every best wish,

Fr. Shay, the staff and children at PREDA

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