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Preda Newsletter September 2006

September 3, 2006 · 

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Dear friends,

There have been new developments in recent weeks as the program for rescuing enslaved children gathers pace and we are preparing to save a lot more and bring their abusers to justice. But first of all let me tell you that at long last the book I have been writing for the past few years is now finished. It is a never ending story in the true sense because everyday there is so much happening here, new activities and challenges that there is no time to write our never ending fight for children’s rights, and to pursue justice against abusers calling them to surrender and repent, and believe the gospel and do penance in jail for abusing children. But most do not repent. Yet there are many children to be still saved and the unjust and cruel system to be changed by love, justice and compassion.

My book launch, “Passion and Power” is on 1st November 2006. Even this newsletter is delayed because I have to join the Preda rescue team from time to time and help save the children. But now these stories about the early years of my missionary life, from the seminary to the present and all the trials and struggles can be told. The book titled “Passion and Power, An Irish Missionary’s Fight Against Child Sex Slavery” will be launched this November 1st, in Hughes & Hughes book store, Marine Road, Dun Laoghaire, across from the church. Price is Euro 12.99. I will be signing copies there. All the earnings from the books ordered and bought on that day alone will be donated to the Preda Children’s Home for abused children. The publisher, Jason O’Toole of Killynon House Books, Turin, Mullingar is donating all the publisher’s proceeds of the book to the Preda children and the campaign to end child abuse and the rescue of children from brothels and hell-like prisons.

Also the following day, the book will be available for sale at my home, 84 Adelaide Road, Glenageary, Co. Dublin, Ireland. You can contact me there at 0851456695 or by email at scullen274@eircom.net. I will be signing copies for all who drop by. It is a good gift that will last a lifetime. The book will be published in the United Kingdom early in 2007.

The actor Martin Sheen, a truly committed Christian and advocate for human rights, having been arrested 62 times for his peace protests on Capitol Hill has given his wholehearted endorsement to the book. Martin came to the Philippines on several occasions and visited me at the Preda Home for Children and we went with Alex Hermoso, the Preda Programme Director, to visit the poor in the garbage dumps of Manila to lobby government for better homes and conditions for them and their children. On the book, he is quoted saying “Fr. Shay is a powerful inspiration”. Well I hope I can be but as all know it is the courageous Filipinos at Preda who risk everything to protect the human rights of the children who are the true inspiration. Martin is studying at Galway University, in Ireland and I hope he will join me at the book launch, if he can’t make it then on the Late Late Show.

Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and the best ever UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and now a famous international human rights advocate has written the Introduction to the book. I am very honored that she has done this and endorsed the book and supported our work. This is as significant as the three Nobel Peace Prize nominations we received already. Here is what this wonderful woman has famously written:

Passion and Power, by Fr. Shay Cullen; the overriding priority of human rights is to protect those who are vulnerable or at risk. The need to protect the human rights of women and children of human rights workers and of journalists and people impoverished and oppressed has never been as urgent as in today’s troubled world. Human rights defenders come in all shapes, sizes, and walks of life. They may be teachers, journalists, lawyers, and religious workers, students, unemployed, elderly, skilled or unskilled. During my term as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights it gave me particular pleasure to meet those who also spoke with Irish accents and had the humor and practical commonsense which is invaluable in grassroots work. Such a human rights defender is Father Shay Cullen, both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.
Please pass the word, call and tell your friends to make reservations with the book store as we cannot print a very big number in case they don’t all sell. Every sale is helping inform others and end child slavery. This is how you can really help.

His book, Passion and Power, telling of his experiences as an Irish Missionary of the Columban Fathers in the Philippines provides a remarkable story of thirty-seven years defending these rights and working to provide positive life giving alternatives to victims and people marginalized and abandoned.

Our paths crossed but twice. The first was in Kilkenny, when I gave a key note speech as President at the opening of an international conference on Fair Trade. Fr. Shay made a lasting impression on all of us there as he represented the life experiences of Filipino artisans and fruit farmers. This book tells a remarkable story of the development of Fair Trade in the Philippines as a life giving solution to thousands of crafts people and farmers.

We met again in Geneva during my UN days, when I encountered the dedicated and diverse range of adults and young people involved in the Global March to End Child Labor. The pages of this book are filled with the struggles and hardships involved in defending human rights and with the hard won victories and achievements too. Here we read of the many campaigns undertaken by Fr. Cullen and his courageous Filipino human rights workers taking stands against the death penalty, and extra-judicial executions and their successful campaign to persuade the Congress of the Philippines to bring in new laws to protect women and children.

Passion and Power is an apt way of describing the author’s conviction and commitment, shared by his team, in defending human rights which come across with inspirational force. The heartwarming stories of the children rescued from sex slavery and terrible prison conditions give us all encouragement to work on for the realization of universal respect for human rights and non-violence as the most influential way to bring peace to our divided and anxious world. I strongly encourage everyone to read this inspiring book.

Mary Robinson

Hopes for new children’s home dashed again.
We had great hopes that we could start the building of a new home for children in the countryside but they were once again dashed and our project is now blocked by bureaucracy. All this despite the letter from the US Congressional Committee for Children to President Macapagal Arroyo asking that the long abandoned building be given to Preda so we could convert it into a children’s home for abused and abandoned children. However, the honorable and kindly head of the struggling Mt. Pinatubo Foundation in San Nicholas, Castillejos, Zambales was not able to give us an assurance he would not take us to court if we build a children’s home on even a small portion of the vast 22 hectare lot of the government land under his control since 1992.

That was when the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo destroyed the livelihoods of thousands and drove many into poverty and hardship. The estate consisting of fishponds, rice fields and mango trees was bought by the Mayor of Castillejos from a relative with relief funds and given into the care and management of the newly formed Mt. Pinatubo Foundation headed by a trustworthy relative of the mayor to be sure there would be no malpractice or misuse of the property. More relief money builds a fine bungalow and two large warehouses.

However, the long awaited livelihood skills training, manufacturing and intensive fish and rice farming by the displaced farmers never materialized. A Taiwanese company leased the buildings from the Mt. Pinatubo Foundation for a while making golf bags but they soon closed when they were found to be using it as a cover for smuggling. After that, the buildings and warehouse fell into neglect, disrepair and were abandoned. The large tracts of the 22 hectare lay uncultivated and the existing orchards and ponds and rice fields continued to produce for 14 years. Who benefits? No one knows. Since that time the displaced victims of the volcanic disaster are still waiting for the skills training and intensive farming to begin.

When Preda applied for only a tiny portion of 2 hectares, the Mt. Pinatubo Foundation donated the property to the Provincial Governor, also a relative, by a memorandum of agreement and the governor gave its management to the Mt. Pinatubo Foundation again with the agreement to spend provincial money for its utilities and guards. Unfortunately, the skill training and intensive farming for the displaced victims still did not materialize. Despite the resolution of the Provincial board and the approval of the Municipal Board of Castillejos for PREDA to get the use of 2 Hectares for 25 years for the children’s home, the Mt. Pinatubo Foundation threatened legal action. Why they could not share just 2 hectare we cant understand for government property that they failed to use as they promised to do we can never know? But it is a sad state of affairs that such government property goes to waste and destruction while homeless and abused children are in such dire need.

The amazing twins actively participating in the school’s sports fest.

The amazing twins actively participating in the school’s sports fest.

We then asked the Technology Livelihood and Resource Center for the use of another government agency for an abandoned factory building in the countryside of San Antonio, Zambales. That was built with relief money for the victims but it too lay rotting for 14 long unproductive years. I asked permission to convert it for the children’s home and vegetable farm but we were refused and instead it was immediately leased to a private company by the TLRC. The hard hearted Pharaohs of the Philippine Bureaucracy are devoid of love and compassion for the abused children. Too often, government officials support the sex tourists and allow them to escape with impunity even when they raped and abused women and children. This is what we are trying to change. At the village level too the officials frequently arrange a pay off of the parents so they don’t file criminal charges against the local pedophiles. The officials get as much as 50% of the pay off. Its called ‘areglo’ system. It’s illegal but since its private and the officials are who’s to know.

This is the heartache of the Filipino people. The World Bank has just announced that the Philippine Bureaucracy and the political system have fallen to even great depths of corruption while the millions of struggling workers, peasants and unemployed struggle to make ends meet and eat twice a day. Juan Jose Daboub, managing director said he could not understand the levels of underdevelopment and poverty when the Philippine nation has such wealth or minerals, natural resources and educated cultured people. The latest survey on the nations making reforms and beating corruption placed the Philippines 126th place lower than the year before when it was 121st place. Corruption is at the stage of a failed state almost. It fails for the majority and functions for the benefit of the few.

The rich landowners are no help either in getting us a bit of land for a children’s home. We asked a land wealthy family in San Antonio for a small bit of their vast landed estate that lies unused but most of them who live in the USA said no way. Then we tried to buy a piece of poor marginal land. When the owner heard it was for a children’s home, the price increased instead. He saw a chance to make a big profit out of the goodness and compassion of enlightened donors willing to help the abused children. So we have not begun yet because of these obstacles. We hope and pray that we can find a nick land for the children’s home at a fair price; not the one that will only be mired in exploitation and dirty deals, fake land tittles or overpriced.

Rescuing a child from a Dutch Pedophile

The good news is last August 18. We were called by the distraught mother of a 16 year-old child with the name IRIS. “Why was she called Iris?”, I asked the mother. “Because of Irish Spring, I like it”, she said. “That’s the soap, you called your daughter after a bar of soap?” “It sounded nice”, she said. I then answered when she again called her daughter that and explains that the Irish Spring is the most beautiful and inspiring of all the seasons.

Iris recovering well at Preda and now a child advocate

Irish was delighted to hear things much better than a bar of soap. But it was that drew the suspected pedophile Alex Wilson, 56, a Dutch national of British ancestry to lure and seduce her and take her away to Angeles city. I got the Preda rescue team together and the police and the social worker and we went to rescue her. I went myself this time to be sure. We found his place in a private house and I went in with the mother of the child and there she was. Then we waved in the police and they arrested the suspect. We filed the charges but the prosecutor, by neglect or design did not file the criminal information with the court. So no hold departure order was issued and then we heard he was selling his properties and ready to depart. We rushed to Angeles city, two hours away to get the prosecutor to file the information and he did as we stood over and then got a court hold order but it was too late. Wilson was on a plane out of Clarke air base that very day.

Irish was taken to safety to the Preda Children’s Home and at first she was angry and defiant for being taken from her sex master but from being a docile sex slave, she had transformation and saw how she was exploited and abused.

We rescued also a 10 year-old from a government official who allegedly sexually abused her and other children according to reports. We filed charges and within a week he had committed suicide. There are serious cases coming in everyday.

Its not over for a British National who escapes Philippine justice. The case against British national Barry Edwards who was charged with sexual abuse of two minors and the rape of another had the charges dismissed because the child witnesses disappeared. We had a strong report about it on the Sky News. The government agency that was supposed to guard and help the children heal and recover failed and the traumatized respondent ran away. Or did the agents of Edwards engineered the disappearance? We may never know.

Father Shay together with the newly rescued kids from prison
Despite the collapse of the case against Edwards, we at Preda got copies of some of his hundreds of video footages showing Edwards sexually abusing minors. This was never used in court and the Philippines does not yet have a law criminalizing the possession or the making of child pornography even though the tapes are evidence of child abuse. Preda is a consultant to the Philippine Senate committee working on a new Anti-Child Pornography Law. In 1995, I was in Ireland working with Owen Ryan FF and Senator Henry to have a new Anti-Child Pornography Law introduced. it has the best description of what child pornography is and so the Philippine legislators have adopted it.

We are asking the United Kingdom police to get this video taped evidence and bring charges against Edwards in the UK. We also filed a petition with the Philippine Commissioner for Immigration department to have him arrested and turned over to the British Police and brought to trial in the UK for his crimes against children in the Philippines under the extra territorial law. Sadly, the prosecutors here cannot bring foreign traffickers and pedophiles to justice.

Some good news was the effective and efficient action of the police woman P01 Ronalyn Mayuyo and Municipal social worker Babylita Evangelista of Orion, Bataan province almost three hours from Preda. They succeeded in rescuing five children, the youngest is 14 years old from street prostitution. They prepared the social case study and also their birth certificates. The legal-medical examination showed all children were severely abused and their parents were brought to Preda for recovery and healing. They told their story, how there were hungry and forced by poverty to beg on the streets and were lured into prostitution by local pimps in this provincial town. The parents were shocked and Preda is also assisting them because they too only eat once a day. Both the Preda home for boys and girls are at an over flowing point now with 50 girl victims of sexual abuse and more than 55 boys rescued from prisons. We are now praying and hoping for the opportunity to get a nice place for new homes.

Sincerely,

Fr. Shay Cullen, the Preda staff and children
Don’t miss the release of the book by Father Shay Cullen, “Passion and Power – An Irish missionary’s 35 years work for justice in the Philippines” will be out in book stores in Ireland on November 1st. Soon after, it will be published in the UK and other English speaking countries in early 2007.

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