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Philippine News Digest 1

August 4, 2001 · 

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Contents:
1. Two teenage boys charged in court for abuse of 7 year old
2. The Philippine Criminal Justice System
3. Civil society group vows to battle ‘narco-politics’
4. Solons to get P15-M ‘pork’
5. More girls to file raps vs American/ Cops coddling American in rape case
6. PNP report: 1,295 rape cases reported January to June
7. Drugs bigger menace than kidnapping
8. Alarm raised on malnutrition of children
9. Mothballed nuke plant costs gov’t P2B a year
10. Condoms acceptable vs AIDS
11. One of Ten Bicol teeners is pregnant
12. Job loss, huge drugs bill: experts weigh cost of HIV/AIDS

Two teenage boys charged in court for abuse of 7 year old
Two teenage boys who were repeatedly accused by a then 7-year old girl of sexually molesting her were ordered put on trial for the alleged crime of rape. The Philippine Department of Justice ruled last August 3, 2001 that there was sufficient prima facie evidence to believe that there is probable cause that they committed the crime against the child. This decision brings to a new stage of a long battle for justice by the Preda Foundation on behalf of the little 7-year old child victim.

The father of one of the boys, a retired US airforce employee, and his housekeeper, the mother of the other boy, had blocked preliminary investigations by keeping the child from attending any preliminary hearing by the investigating prosecutor. This fact was noted in the decision by the Secretary of Justice.
After learning about the alleged crime committed by the two 12-year old boys, the father of the child took no action to protect her from further sexual abuse other than to scold the houseboy. The father claimed that the boys were only playing doctor. However, the houseboy admitted the crime in a sworn statement and said they did it after watching a pornographic video left around by the father of the child.

Initial medical examination indicated abrasions to the sexual organ of the child victim. But in spite of this and her extreme agitation, the father left the child in the same house with the abusers for several months until the National Police and the Department of Social Welfare and Development officials, on the instigation of the Preda social workers rescued her. A later medical examination showed that she had more severe signs of abuse after being with them.

After the rescue operation, the child was brought to the Preda Children’s Therapeutic Home. However, her father succeeded in getting her out and into his custody and influence so she could not testify against her abusers. In the meantime the child told the National Police, the government social workers and psychologist that the two boys had repeated sexually abusing her. When they filed a charge against the two boys the father did not bring the child to the preliminary investigation and the father’s lawyer represented both the victim and the accused!

During the eight months when the child victim is under the custody and influence of the parents of the accused, evidence was manufactured to accuse the director of the Preda Home, Fr. Shay |Cullen, of committing the offense against the child. This was dismissed twice by the investigating prosecutor but was appealed to the Department of Justice. Eventually the complaint was dismissed as being unfounded and without sufficient evidence noting that the child had never failed for many months to accuse the two boys.

The Preda social workers pursued justice for the child and made a formal complaint against the two boys by presenting strong evidence. The Secretary of Justice, after a review of the evidence, ordered the two boys to stand trial. No date has been set for the trial of the accused .It is likely that there will be many delays while the child is still under the influence of the parents of the accused. It is with logic to say that they will continue to pressure and influence the child victim not to accuse her half brother and the other boy.

The Philippine Criminal Justice System

The Philippines confronts diverse problems that range from the political and economic to the other aspects of nation-building, but all of these can be traced back to a fundamental lack of justice most evident in places like Bilibid, a prison cell. Children as young as nine are tried as adults and sent to adult jails. There are only a dozen juvenile-detention centers in the country and most of them are full. Conservative estimates put the number of child prisoners at more than 20, 000, or 10 percent of the total prison population. Almost all of these child prisoners come from the slums and dirt-poor villages.

Human-rights organizations are lobbying the Philippine Senate to pass a bill that would mandate a separate court and a more humane treatment for juveniles but it is not certain that senators will pass it.

Minors in the country’s jails confront conditions that even adults find brutal. Most jails in the country smells of rotten food and sweat due to overcrowding. Sixty prisoners are crammed into a 5-meter-by-7-meter cells. When riots break, children are often pushed to the frontlines. Juveniles are abused more drastically than older prisoners. Professor Randy David of the University of the Philippines who has conducted several studies in Bilibid said children in prisons are prone to sexual abuse and that abuse do actually happen. Some of the child prisoners have ended up on death row. The Philippine Constitution does not allow the execution of minors but authorities assume that most teens are over 18. They rarely take the time to track down the birth certificates of impoverished children who are convicted of capital offense. A similar disregard helps explain how many of these kids ended up in jail in the first place. Their cases are handled by overworked public defendants, who often advise them to plead guilty in order to speed the process along.

The Supreme Court is hoping to set up a system of 70 judges who will try minors separately, but most of the designated judges are reluctant to take up the added caseloads. More extensive reforms than that will be needed, however, to keep children out of places like Bilibid. Source: Mahlon Meyer, Criminal Justice System in Newsweek, 20 August 2001, p.17.

Civil society group vows to battle narco-politics

A newly formed alliance of key players in the people power uprising was formed after military intelligence chief Victor Corpus and witness Angelo Mawanay revealed their findings to the media. The group, called Katotohanan, vowed to fight ‘narco-politics’ at the community level. They are asking the senators to focus on the allegations made against Sen. Lacson instead of merely attacking the authority and credibility of his accusers. They will hold a picket in front of the Senate Building this week.

The group also said at least one out of ten youngsters aged between 7 and 21 have tried illegal drugs. Most of those hooked on drugs belong to the A, B and E socio-economic brackets, and come from Metro Manila and Mindanao. Source: Christian Esguerra and Norman Bordadora, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 August 2001.

Solons to get P15-M ‘pork’

Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin gave congressmen an assurance that they will receive P15 million each starting Monday, August 27 representing the second tranche of their pork barrel funds for 2001 amounting to P3.1 billion. The money will come from this year’s P629 billion national budget and is part of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allotted to each of the 208 district representatives in the House. The PDAF is marked to fund poverty alleviation projects of the national government. Aside from the PDAF, each district has another P35 million in public works funds, to be administered by the Department of Public Works and Highways. Source: R. Nazareno, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 August 2001.

More girls to file raps vs American/ Cops coddling American in rape case

Commission on Human Rights special investigator Evangeline Laguardia said additional rape charges will be filed against Victor Pearson after six girls with ages ranging from 13 to 16 had admitted that they too were molested by the American. The girls told the investigators that Pearson took videotapes and pictures while they were having sex with him. They were made to smoke marijuana and drink tequila before they were made to perform. Pearson is now detained at the Ilog municipal jail after a 15-year old filed rape charges against him. The minors are now placed in a safe house under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Meanwhile, investigations are underway on persistent allegations that four Negrense policemen have been extending protection to Pearson. Sources: G. Bayoran, Today, and Carla Gomez, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 August 2001.

PNP report: 1,295 rape cases reported January to June

A total of 1,295 rape cases were reported to the authorities from January to June this year, a decrease of 314 incidents, or almost 20% percent, over the 1,609 cases documented in the same period last year. This figure translates to 7 rape cases daily, or one rape case reported every three-and-a-half hours.

The Bureau of Corrections put four convicted rapists to death by lethal injection between February 1999 and January 2000. Condemned rapists now account for 52% of the 1,815 inmates on death row.
Rape cases surged by an annual average of 5 percent from 1990 to 1999. Last year, however, rape cases dropped slightly to 3, 145 incidents compared with the 3, 177 reported in 1999. Source: C.Mocon, Today, 20 August 2001.

Drugs bigger menace than kidnapping

Antonio Uy, national president of Kilos Laya Laban sa Droga (Kill Droga) said that each year the number of drug users in the country increases at an alarming rate of 300%. This has made illegal drug trafficking the most lucrative criminal business in the country today, with expected sales amounting to P300 billion or almost half of the national budget for 2001.

The number of drug dependents in the country today is about 2 million people, compared with only 20, 000 persons in 1972. Teenagers account for the bulk of persons who use illegal drugs, with 1.2 million people aged 15 to 17 hooked on drugs. Another alarming fact is the growing number of executives of major corporations now hooked on drugs. It is feared that this would soon affect our economy and political institutions if left unchecked. Kill Droga has embarked on an ambitious drive to eradicate the problem by year 2010. Its officers and members would keep a tight watch on and fight the spread of drug abuse right in communities, schools, and places of work. Source: Anthony Allada, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 20 August 2001.

Alarm raised on malnutrition of children

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that cases of severe malnutrition were discovered among several children in Payatas, Quezon City; Baseco and Isla Puting Bato in Manila; Basilan in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Western Mindanao and Central Mindanao. Malnutrition is categorized from levels 1 to 5. DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman explained that children in levels 4 and 5 are characterized with very thin, frail bodies and bloated stomachs, and is already life threatening cases. To combat this problem, the department will establish soup kitchens to provide free food in impoverished areas to immediately combat nutrition. The secretary said that the resources of the department to set up soup kitchens is not enough and the private sector could donate funds or logistics to help feed ch8ildren with vitamin-fortified food. Source: Karlo Baylosis, Today, 12 Aug 2001.

Mothballed nuke plant costs gov’t P2B a year

It does not produce a single watt of electricity, yet the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is costing the government P2 billion a year. Debts incurred in the building of the nuclear plant are among those being serviced by the government, which for 2002 has allotted P204 billion or nearly a third of the proposed P780 billion proposed national budget for debt servicing. Next year, the government will pay $43million or P2.195 billion based on a P51 to $1 exchange rate to five institutions that finance the nuclear plant project.

The Bataan Nuclear power Plant was a major showcase of the Marcos regime. Its project proponent, the US’ Westinghouse Inc., was accused of giving kickbacks to Marcos and his cronies in order to get the project. After its construction amidst protests from anti-nuclear activist, it was found out that the plant was built on an earthquake fault. Source: Rocky Nazareno, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12 Aug 2001.

Condoms acceptable vs AIDS

Fr. James Keenan, S.J. says it is morally acceptable for sexual partners to use condoms if only to prevent them from contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He said that what the Catholic Church objects to is contraception and not the use of rubber prophylactics, or condoms per se. He notes that the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” prohibits artificial contraception but not the use of contraceptive products themselves. Keenan put forward the theological principle of double effect and lesser evil in upholding the moral acceptability of condom use, especially among married couples. He made this remark in recognition of the fact that condoms for HIV prevention are the same condoms for contraception. However, he said he was arguing for condom use not to convince the Catholic Church to relax its rules against the use of prophylactics but to contribute to a healthy dialogue on the subject.

The AIDS Society of the Philippines said that 36 million people worldwide have been infected by HIV since it was discovered 10 years ago and 22 million have died since. In the Philippines, 1500 people have been infected and 250 have died. The Society believes that the low rate of condom use is one of the factors behind the large number of AIDS and HIV sufferers in the country. Source: Norman Bordadero, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 Aug 2001.

1 of 10 Bicol teeners is pregnant

A 1998 demographic survey by the Department of Health revealed that one out of every 10 female teenagers in Bicol was already a mother to her first child or was pregnant two years ago. The most prone teenagers were those in the 15 to 19 years old bracket. Three out of four maternal deaths on that year were of teenage mothers because of child delivery or post-birth circumstances. The region posted a high 9.8% teenage pregnancy rate, which is above the national average of 7.2%. Unplanned or unwanted pregnancies by teenagers also brought about the high incidence of induced abortion at about12% of natural child deliveries during the survey period. Source: F. Vargas, Today, 7 August 2001.

Job loss, huge drugs bill: experts weigh cost of HIV/AIDS

In a report titled A Matter of Time: Development of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines conducted by NEDA, Health Action Information Network and the United Nations Development Program, it was found out that development of the AIDS epidemic is “low and slow” in the Philippines and its macro impact has been minimal so far. But the government must not ignore the effects of the epidemic as it carries much of the financial burden for the care of people infected with the virus. In 1999, the Department of Health budget was only P14.1 billion. Of this amount, P45million was allotted to the government’s HIV/AIDS related programs, which is barely enough to cover the cost of medicines.

The study was centered on former overseas workers who mostly felt the effects of AIDS/HIV. Overseas workers as a sector is an important part of the country’s economy. According to NEDA’s rough projection, their remittances from 1997 to 1999 accounted for 7% to 9% of the country’s GNP. It also projected that unofficial remittances could eventually account for 12%. If just 1% of the total number of overseas workers were infected and assumed to be no longer contributing to the GNP, then the GNP would drop by 0.12%.

In March 2000, there were 1374 HIV-positive cases recorded. Of these, at least 298 were former OFWs. Seafarers account for 151, or 51% of the total number of HIV-positive overseas workers.

While people infected with HIV/AIDS lose the productive years of their lives, their financial needs continue to soar. According to the search, the most expensive component of HIV care is the use of antiretroviral drugs, also referred to as High Active Antiretroviral Therapy. Such treatment doesn’t make the disease go away. It only slows down the multiplication of the virus. The cost of the treatment can reach up to 30,000 a month, or 360,000 a year. Economic costs include not only loss of jobs, but also depletion of savings and increased debts. Source: Mar-vic Cagurangan, Today, 30 July 2001.

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