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PREDA NEWSLETTER March 2003

March 3, 2003 · 

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Dear friends and defenders of children’s rights,

This letter can open with some good news- a court victory against a cruel abuser who was found guilty of raping a 7-year old child Anabel and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was the live-in partner of the mother, Aniline, who was herself battered by him. He whipped the child with electric wires and a metal tube and sexually abused her several times. After five years of trying to get justice in a creaking judicial system, known for endless postponements and delays, and having bravely and courageously given testimony in court, the decision came down in her favor. PREDA social workers traveled the three-hour journey to Manila many times and doggedly persisted in having the case heard and not dismissed. This is typical of the justice system, there is a lack of judges and lawyers. A new bill in congress is proposing to double the salary of judges to ease the shortage. 

There are 37 children in the PREDA Children’s Home, 22 of them have now found the emotional and spiritual strength to testify against their abusers and their cases are on going. There are another 17 cases frozen and archived because the police can’t find the suspect to arrest him. The police are woefully incompetent. There have been two convictions this year, Anabel is one. Four were dismissed and the suspect went free. 

Testifying in court can be emotionally stressful and could be traumatizing. But the children are asking to do it. Before giving testimony and being cross-examined in court they have a training experience at PREDA in a play court. They go through the motions of attending court hearings, giving their sworn testimony, being cross-examined before an audience (the other children and staff) and in this way they are encouraged and affirmed and praised and helped to overcome the nervousness and fear they feel. This is in no way coaching or telling them what to say. The presence of the abuser in the courtroom is intimidating, the worst fear they have. PREDA social workers ask the courtroom to be cleared of the public. Then they sit in front of the abuser to block his angry stare. The child is instructed not to look at him. Most family court judges are very child friendly. In the future we hope to help the family court get a video conference system to make it unnecessary for the child to give testimony in public. 

Campaign Against Child Pornography 

We have been busy, too, trying to get a blatantly child pornographic comic strip in a tabloid banned. Our protestations got coverage on television and this helped win the outright support of the government social service director who threatened to file charges against the tabloid if they don’t drop the strip. 

Marlyn went to Germany last February to promote fair trade and talk about how it curbs child abuse.

Marlyn went to Germany last February to promote fair trade and talk about how it curbs child abuse.

 

Success Stories of Child Advocates 

A big success story is that of Marlyn and Pia, former prostituted children, who were both placed under the custody of PREDA. They then testified against their abusers in Holland and Germany who fled the Philippine Court. PREDA filed charges against them in their respective countries and they were found guilty. Marlyn is an empowered young lady now and in her second year college taking up social work. She wants to help children abused as she was. Marlyn went to Germany last February as a guest of the stars of a TV detective series and together they promoted the PREDA Fair Trade projects and distributed PREDA dried tropical fruits during the street carnival. She returned after three weeks. 

Pia, also an active children’s rights activist, will graduate from high school this March. Pia has traveled to Germany and Japan and is an active public speaker about the prostitution of children and her own experiences at the hands of paedophiles and pimps. Another former prostituted child, Gemma, is graduating too. She is a good public speaker and wants to work for abused children. She has been selected for the PREDA Youth Advocacy Theater this year and will tour Germany and Switzerland this May and June presenting the musical drama about the trafficking of children. 

Spiritual Upliftment  

Six of the children at PREDA Children’s Home received confirmation in the local parish and in the absence of their parents (several are abandoned children) the PREDA staff were their acting parents and sponsors. They attended life in the spirit seminars, where five of them won top prizes in a Bible quiz. 

The children and youth at PREDA happily shared their experience and talent with the kids at a slum area in Manila.

The children and youth at PREDA happily shared their experience and talent with the kids at a slum area in Manila.

 

The children find a rich spiritual life in the PREDA community. Recently with their music teacher they have formed a choir and are practicing daily. Imagine some of those children rescued from the clubs where they were prostituted and dressed in bikinis at 13 years old and made sex dancers are now dressed as angels praising God in song. What a change. One of them, fathered by an Australian man who has since died, said she had a lost brother abandoned in Manila. Last week, PREDA social workers searching far and wide found him a street urchin. He is now happily reunited with his sister at PREDA. 

The children also visit the Missionaries of Charity Home for the Sick and help the old and the abandoned babies every week. The education department continued visiting schools, colleges, women’s groups, and youth forum to deliver their children’s rights and HIV-AIDS Prevention training, responsible parenthood and reduction of family violence. They also brought the PREDA youth to a slum area in Manila on the Payatas dumpsite and presented short drama, puppet shows, gift giving and group dynamics and games to the delight of over a hundred children. The children recovering at PREDA were there too, to sharing their talents with the slum kids. 

One of the kids from PREDA nurses a patient at the Missionaries of Charity Home for the Sick.

One of the kids from PREDA nurses a patient at the Missionaries of Charity Home for the Sick.

 

Clamp Down on Bars and Clubs, Owners and Operators Charged 

When six minors, two of them only 13 years old, were brought to the PREDA Children’s Home a few months ago from Angeles city, 60 miles from here, with the help of PREDA and the International Justice Mission the children brought criminal charges against the bar owners- an American and an Australian and three of their pimps who prostituted them and made them work as sex dancers. The suspects have all been arraigned in court and the trials are ongoing. PREDA staff working with the social welfare authorities were instrumental in bringing about the closing of nine sex bars and clubs in Angeles City as a result of our protest to the city authorities. The court also granted full legal custody of the children to PREDA under the child protection law as ‘Ad Litem’, that is in direct responsibility of their legal welfare. This is one of the first times this has been granted under Philippine law. It prevents the parents or the suspects from getting control of the children by filing habeas corpus cases against PREDA. 

Another Court Victory 

In another strong decision by the highest legal office of the Philippines, the Presidential Legal office, PREDA and Fr. Shay was again totally exonerated and a previous decision dismissing another false charge was upheld. The decision dated 5 February 2003 upheld the truth that a 7-year old child rescued by PREDA and stated that the real abusers were her half-brother and a house boy and the child’s father was neglecting her and protecting the two boys. 

This landmark decision by the Acting Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs of President Macapagal -Arroyo stated: 

“. . . Asst. Prosecutor Lasam in his order dismissing the complaint, Ronald Payumo and Oliver Edmonds were the ones the victim originally accused of sexually abusing her for at least twelve (12) times. The victim even said that her father, herein appellee, did nothing when she told him about these abuses in the hands of Ronald Payumo Oliver Edmonds. Appellee’s apparent inaction was the precise reason why the DSWD and PREDA took protective custody of the victim beginning January 29, 1998.” 

He also dismissed the other arguments of the accuser as unsustainable and of no merit. This counter charge against Fr. Shay by the American non-biological father of the child was an attempt to shield his ‘adopted son’ and his friend from the accusation of the half-sister, a 7-year old little girl, by blaming Fr. Shay. It was an outrageous frame up and the false charge has now been exposed and repudiated four times by different investigating prosecutors in their resolutions to dismiss. 

The two abusers are presently charged before the Olongapo Regional Trial Court. The charge that tried to shift the blame from the two twelve year-old boys to Fr. Shay was based on fabricated evidence manufactured in a bar at a sex resort where three members of the sex mafia are known to frequent. One masquerading as a bar and restaurant operator, another a disgraced priest and the third, the American non-biological father of the child. They enlisted the help of two alleged bent field officers from a government human rights office to make the unbelievable counter charge appear credible. These three non-Filipinos are part of the group who campaigned for the release from prison of a convicted Australian paedophile and paid his bail. 

Photo shows a minor detained with adults in Subic Municipal Detention Center which the PREDA Jail Monitor and Rescue team inspected on February 20.

Photo shows a minor detained with adults in Subic Municipal Detention Center which the PREDA Jail Monitor and Rescue team inspected on February 20.

 

Advocacy Theater Tour 2003 

The PREDA youth group, called AKBAY, will tour with the musical drama ‘The Truth Behind the Masks” in Germany and Switzerland. This tells the powerful but harrowing story of exploitation and the trafficking of children into prostitution. The advocacy theater group traveled in Canada last year and participated to the Klondike Fair Trade days and had more than 26 presentations. 

More Children Released from Jails 

Members of the theater group are also part of the Jail Monitoring and Rescue Team assisted by two volunteer lawyers from Ireland, Darach MacNamara and Barry Mansfield. They have already found in the past few months a total of 160 minors, all boys some as young as 13 years-old. Forty-four have been released as a result of PREDA Rescue Team’s intervention and 17 have been transferred to rehabilitation centers for youth. Sixteen prisons were visited for a total of 41 visits made to date. The work is continuing daily. 

International Volunteers 

The international volunteers and intern students at PREDA are active and contributing very much to the PREDA programmes. Peter Donnelly is researching the background to the Davao Death Squads and Kelly Wugalter, a social worker from Canada is busy reorganizing the files of the children. Mary Hensley from the US is a great help in > the fair trade department helping us produce a new CD with the latest products from the handicraft producers we help. The volunteers and interns find their own financial support through sponsors and so they don’t exhaust any funds that are serving the needs of children. Many more have applied and we have volunteer openings for a craft designer, lawyer, agriculturist, social worker, and computer technician and a detective. 

World Fair Trade Day 

The alternative trade and education programme hosted a group of seven from Germany who’s interest in PREDA and fair trade was well catered for as they visited many handicraft producers and the PREDA-assisted organic farmers. PREDA is presently working hard to promote the production of organically grown tropical fruits especially mangos. A workshop will be given by representatives from the Germany-based Naturland, an international certification group working with our German partner Dritte Welt Partners. 

PREDA will also launch a local fair trade produce, mango-guarana drink, on World Fair Trade Day, May 17th. This is in cooperation with our Italian partner Comalt in Italy that assists natives in the Brazilian rain forest to produce guarana, a medicinal herbal plant that gives a special taste and lift to the mighty mango drink. Comalt imports the hugely popular drink from PREDA to Italy where it has taken off in the supermarkets. They supply us with the guarana from Brazil. The PREDA dried mangos are a big hit in the world shops and in supermarkets such as the Super Quinn and Dunnes stores in Ireland, Sainsburys and Waitrose in the UK. The earnings help us to improve the lives of the poor farmers and abused children. 

A Sad Ending for Amerasian Kid 

We were very sad with the violent death of Hakim, a young boy fathered by a US sailor and abandoned. He was cared for by PREDA when only 8 years old through the Filipino-American Child Project in 1993. When he was 15, he went to live with a foster family. He was stabbed to death last week on the street by a suspected drug addict and pusher. The area near Olongapo City is notorious as a haven for drug pushers and dealers. 

Hakim’s sister is a scholar at the PREDA Center and will graduate from college with a degree in hotel and restaurant management this year. Hakim was one of the four Filipino-American children brought to the United States in 1993 as complainant in a class action suit taken by PREDA and the children against the US Navy claiming that they had been abandoned and deprived unjustly. The case was heard in Washington D.C. in the International Court of Complaints but was dismissed. The mothers of the children, the judge, said were all prostitutes and had no rights to file a complaint in court as the children were the result of illegal prostitution.


 

Children Voice Opposition to War in Iraq 

The PREDA staff and children and youth members traveled in convoy to Manila with streamers, banners and flags demanding peace and not war. One banner made by the youth leaders said, “Use Brains not Bombs, Make Peace not War”. 

Thousands gathered in Manila for the rally led by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and leaders of all religious denominations and faiths. Muslim clerics delivered strong message for peace. The rally is in consonance with a worldwide movement denouncing a US-led war in Iraq. 

With every best wish,  

Fr. Shay, the PREDA Team and the children

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