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Preda Newsletter November 2007

November 4, 2007 · 

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It was a happy day last October 20 when the first vehicle drove over the second completed bridge leading to the new Preda organic farm on vocational training center for boys. A bridge that was made possible by the provincial government under the newly elected Governor Amor Deloso. This is only the phase one of a residential vocational center at a farm site in Castillejos, Zambales just about 35 minutes drive from the present Preda center overlooking Subic Bay.

This will be the home of the youth rescued from the horrific conditions of the stinking and suffocating jails. On this site, children will have a chance to study and learn more skills. Here, they have a chance for a decent life and a better future. Thanks to the generous fund-raising efforts and donations of our friends and supporters who have made this possible. Last August, Father David Halpin with his parishioners 15 young people from Greystones parish in Wicklow, Ireland came to visit the project and saw the new vocational training center which they had help build. With pride and fulfillment Father David said, “and then to be standing under the roof of this building was one of the most wonderful feelings I have ever had … I was immensely proud of what we, as a parish had achieved in the middle of such awfulness (children seen in subhuman jails, children trafficked for sex abuse) we were here involved in doing something to help the poorest of the poor of our world.” A new residential home for younger children will also be built at this site next year and with your continuous support we can save many more lives.

BOYS HOME IS FULL

Preda is successfully getting more children released from jails through the help of the compassionate courts in Metro Manila and Central Luzon. Five of them agreed to allow our clients to be absent from the court hearings unless needed. This saves us a lot of money and travel time. Several hundred children had been released in the past months yet many more are still locked up behind bars. Presently we have 54 children living in our youth home, many were already reintegrated with their families. Those children that are still at Preda are staying at their own free will and doing their best to study hard at school and live a new life. These children, when given affirmation, encouragement, respect and values formation, find their self-worth, personal dignity and strong hope for the future. In jails, these young lives would be thrown away on the thrash heap of criminality and violence.

Preda Boys Release from jail conduct group dynamics in other youth homes.

Preda Boys Release from jail conduct group dynamics in other youth homes.

The boys are well recovered from their jail trauma and are actively helping other youth who have been released from jails and are in other non-government youth centers. This week, November 17-18, nine boy with some of Preda staff went to Baguio City to give trainings and group dynamics to the youths of the Child and Family Services of the Philippines (CFSPI) a community base center for Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL). Youth helping youth to strengthen their character and make them feel worthwhile and much to live for.

Now a big challenge is facing the new juvenile justice law, the ultra conservative local politicians and misinformed members of the public believe that youth in conflict with the law ought to be dealt severely and locked in prisons. Some councilors in Baguio City are calling for the law to be repealed. Preda will participate in a new public awareness campaign to clarify the law and its implementation and why prison is no solution.

Legal victories

While most of our efforts to bring abusers to justice are frustrated at the police and prosecutors level, we are battling on for justice for children and ourselves. The prosecutors’ office in Caloocan City from where we rescue many children has dismissed the charges of libel against us because we broadcast the plight of kids behind bars on ITV and CNN. A kudos for the Department Of Justice (DOJ). There are 52 boys in Preda center the youngest is 12 years old. 29 still have cases against them. The legal officer was able to have several other cases dismissed. One was a murder charge against a 14-year-old. His victim died but he was temporally insane when he did it after he was beaten up in public by that person. He served 7 months in prison until released to Preda. He has changed and is now doing well.

SAVING CHILDREN FROM SEX TRAFFICKERS

Human Rights Team promote awareness of Children’s Rights

Human Rights Team promote awareness of Children’s Rights

On a recent undercover surveillance operation by Preda, we discovered children as young as 13 being used as prostitutes in a sex bar in the provincial capital of Zambales. The sex industry is fast spreading even to rural areas. This sex bar, which is near the country court house and government offices, had a dozen young girls for sale to local and foreign sex abusers. One of the girls had been raped there a week previously and ran to Preda’s children’s home for trafficked and sexually exploited minors where she told us her story. That’s how we knew about it and set out to rescue them all.

We were able to photograph and identify the children working at the bar and gave the evidence to the national anti- trafficking in persons police but for three weeks they did not respond. Then suddenly they arrived in strength -ten armed male officers and three female officers to raid the place and rescue the children but it was found out that the minors had all been spirited away. An insider tip-off perhaps. It turned out that a provincial police officer owned the bar. Three young women over 18 years of age were saved and taken by the anti-trafficking police to Manila and charges were filed against the woman who managed the bar. In Hermosa, Bataan province, we went to rescue a 13 year old victim of child prostitution, but to our frustration she had been whisked away only hours before we arrived. Another policeman was said to own that bar named “Young Angel.” It seems even angels are being prostituted.

School Children learn their rights and self-protection.

School Children learn their rights and self-protection.

Very few traffickers or child sex abuse suspects are brought to trial and fewer were convicted. It would be bad for the billion peso sex tourism business. Prostitution is spreading and some local politicians allow or even promote it in order to attract tourists. In November, Preda successfully campaigned for the City Council of Olongapo to pass an anti-prostitution law to protect the rights of women and children and to strengthen the local awareness of women’s rights. It is also to remind the law enforcers that prostitution is illegal. Buklod, a women’s rights group supported by Preda, recently did a survey of social hygiene centers in Olongapo and the town of Subic. They learned that there are about 4,500 young women working in the sex business.

There are 57 children in our care recovering from sexual abuse. Most of them are recovering very well. There are also seven children who are mentally challenged. They are the most vulnerable of all and are targeted by pedophiles and sex abusers because they cannot even complain or even if they can, the abusers thought that no one will believe them. Preda is continually conducting trainings and seminars to parents, teachers and guardians on how to recognize signs of child abuse. People in the community are also trained to report child abuse cases and how to get help to Preda by sending text message to our hotline numbers with the assurance that help will immediately be on the way. Despite these children being mentally troubled, Preda’s psychologist, social workers and legal officer have gathered sufficient medical and other evidences to bring a strong case against their abusers. Some developed mental problems after being abused. They are just 6 years to 12 years of age. One is pregnant, indicative of the severity of the abuse. Preda’s legal officer is pursuing these cases and the children cannot go home to their families because the abusers had not been charged by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

There are many other cases that have not yet been examined by the Prosecutor’s office in Bataan after months of waiting. However, the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s office seems diligent and was quick to file charges against Father Shay Cullen and several of his staff for libel due to a statement on Preda’s web site www.preda.org. The prosecutor instantly filed charges with the court, Preda was denied the right to give its side and the judge (now suspended) issued an arrest warrant within two days. We are appealing to the Department of Justice Chief State Prosecutor to appoint more prosecutors of integrity to Olongapo City and Balanga City in Bataan province.

Human Rights Team gave seminars to 9000 people in three (3) months.

Human Rights Team gave seminars to 9000 people in three (3) months.

Preda’s Human Rights awareness building teams are conducting many human rights seminars in the province of Bataan, thanks to the funding from Irish Aid. The team is giving trainings and seminars about children’s and women’s rights. The team has given seminar to over 9000 direct participants in three months.

The seminars are for Barangay and village officials, community leaders, police and parents. We are distributing pamphlets and copies of the law to prosecutors and judges, to police and social workers. During the seminars for parents and teachers, the information on how to report child abuse cases and how to avail of the services of Preda are disseminated through out the community. This has led to many new children being saved and brought to Preda’s children’s home for protection and therapy. It also makes more cases against abusers. They are angry at Preda for putting them on trial. We have to be careful for our safety because of all the threats and harassments. We appreciate your prayers for our safety and the children.

THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN GET PREVENTIVE EDUCATION
The Preventive Education and Public Speaking team (Peps) have reached as many as 6,378 children, parents and teachers in a three month period. This year they have reached as many as 23,000 in all, astounding work. They use stories, puppet show, charts and animated films to reach parents and children. They also distribute brochures and cards to mothers where they can text or call Preda to report abuse and ask help. Its the reason why Preda children home is already full with children rescued from abusers. We can never turn away from a child who has been raped specially when the abuser is after her. We have fund raising to build new children’s home to accommodate more victims of abuses. We need all the help we can get. There have been great groups helping us and we will soon be near our goal. Thanks to all of you who have donated and helped run the programe for the children. Here it is all action for justice and the rights of the women and children.

The Preda- AKBAY -Youth group is growing stronger and the newly trained theatre group are getting ready to Tour in April-May in Germany, France, Spain Belgium Holland and Ireland. The original Akbay players will go to Australia in July next year to join the International Youth Day in Sydney where they will meet Pope Benedict with other youth. They will also perform their play in various venues. The members are all volunteers and join the PEPS education team. They will put on Puppet shows for school children which teach them how to be safe from abuse and protect their rights. The AKBAY youth group is also active in producing radio programmes that talks about the rights of women and children and different social issues.

Robert with baby Wilson saved from abduction.

Robert with baby Wilson saved from abduction.

Robert to the Rescue of two year old -again!
The legal office came to the assistance of a distraught battered unmarried mother whose 2 year old son Wilson, had been abducted by the Canadian father. Last November 21st, Preda’s legal officer Robert Garcia, rescued the little boy. He was able to persuade the man to turn the little boy over to the mother. It was then discovered that he has signed birth certificates of several other children of unmarried women though he is not even the father of the children. He may be claiming child support from the Canadian social services.

Now, Wilson is safely back with his mother and grandmother. Last August, Robert also single handily traced a child abductor to a far province and remote mountain village and rescued another little boy. Every day, battered women and abused children bring their cases to his desk and despite the uphill legal battle he fights them all. There is no end to the threats and challenges. There are 76 staff of Preda implementing all the projects. A recent external evaluation by a supporting charity, shows that they are doing a great job providing high quality best practice service to the children.

Thousands of Craft workers prosper with Preda Fair Trade.

Thousands of Craft workers prosper with Preda Fair Trade.

Preda with Volunteers plant 1000 trees every year.

Preda with Volunteers plant 1000 trees every year.

The Preda Fair Trade is providing livelihood and better living condition to thousands of Filipinos, small farmers, co-operatives, bag makers, handicraft makers, pumice stone cutters and many more. Thousands of jobs are created. The plant where Preda mangos and other fruits are processed gives jobs to 3000 regular workers. All are paid just and fair wages with added bonus in superb hygienic working conditions to the point where it is ISO certified to international standards. At the height of the mango harvest, March to August, when school is out, there are as many as 10,000 workers on three shifts. They are students, and thousands had finished college, thanks to the summer jobs provided by the Preda/Profood dried fruits.

We are also planting thousands of fruit bearing trees a year. Together with our partners, we help the Indigenous people fight for their rights specially to their ancestral land, and also to preserve the environment from the ravages of irresponsible large scale mining. Not without risk, one leader of the indigenous people was assassinated and Preda staff and others were fired on by security guards at a mining site some months ago. Danger never ends.

The end of price fixing cartels. The quality of the chemical free dried fruits from Preda are of world class and hygienic standard. Not only that, Preda/Profood has also battled together the mighty giants of the industry for years and put an end to the exploitation of the price fixing cartels. Preda/Profood buys hundreds of thousands tons of mangos all over the Philippines from small farmers and co-operatives. We pay a higher price creating a shortage and competition for the would-be price fixing monopolies. From small humble beginnings looked down by all, like the corner stone rejected, the project has become the biggest of all.

Preda Human Rights Team teaches the dangers of large scale mining to the people.

Preda Human Rights Team teaches the dangers of large scale mining to the people.

Promoting the Preda fair trade dried fruits is a challenge for all. We need all our friends everywhere to promote the Fair trade products in the European fair trade shops and in the UK and Ireland. Ask for the Preda fair trade dried fruits under the Forestfeast fair-trade brand. Products are in Tescos, Dunnes stores, Quinnsworth, Waitrose, Somerfield, Spar, Sainsbury’s. Preda supporters only need to phone the store nearest them and ask if they have the Forestfeast/Preda Fair Trade dried fruits from the Philippines. They make great Christmas gifts for your family and the farmers and children’s at the Preda children homes this Christmas.

I wish all a happy and holy Christmas.

Fr. Shay Cullen, the staff and the children
Contact us: predainfo@preda.org
Website: www.preda.org
Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, 2200 Philippines

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