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Statement of Fr. Sean Purcell,

May 6, 2011 · 

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Feb 1 & 2 were very interesting days in Davao. This was the climax of the libel case filed by Mayor Benjamin De Guzman against Fr. Shay Cullen, the Columban priest of PREDA, Olongapo. Fr Cullen was to be arraigned for this case before Judge Robillo in Sala 13 of RTC. The case was filed in October 1999 and has dragged on since.

Shortly before that date, two street children, Royroy and Maymay, had been gunned down, kuno, by the Death Squad. Fr. Cullen, who has been a fearless fighter for childrens’ rights for the last 30 years, took up the cudgels for the slain street children of Davao. He took his case to the Internet. We should remember that Fr. Cullen is an international figure with an outstanding track record in the field of childrens’ human rights. Anyhow, some people in Davao persuaded the city Mayor to file the charges against Fr. Cullen. It was claimed that he had tarnished the image of Davao City world wide.

Many negotiations have taken place in the meantime. The upshot was that today the City Mayor withdrew his charges against Fr. Cullen. There is an election coming up – this, plus the evidence on hand if the case goes into the courts, were enough to bring the case to an abrupt end. Following is the statement of Fr. Cullen: –

The dismissal of the criminal libel complaint against me based on the
withdrawal of Mayor Benjamin de Guzman is a victory for Truth and Justice and the freedom of speech. It is also a positive and welcome move by the Mayor who has seen the light of truth in this case. This was a criminal complaint and there was no civil case for damages claiming 50 Million Pesos as incorrectly reported by some media. I have made no statements that blamed the Mayor for the killing and harassement of the street youths. I merely called for him to go after the killers.

The dismissal is an acknowledgement that the right to speak out for human rights and the rights of the abused children is recognised as the overwhelming right and duty for all people.

I express thanks to those in the NGOs that are working for women’s and children’s rights and the Church sector who helped persuade the Mayor that withdrawing his complaint is the right and just thing to do. It exonerates and vindicates me from the libel charge which is without foundation.

I have no personal feeling of grievance against the Mayor and only wish him to truly pursue the rule of law and act against those who follow the rule of the gun and who wrongly espouse violence as a remedy for grievous social problems.

The problem of homeless street children and youth is rooted in grievous social injustice, the failure of land reform and the lack of a just distribution of wealth. Children are excluded and stigmatised unjustly and even demonized as drug pushers and thieves without evidence and due process leading to the violation of their human rights.

The problem is also rooted in the minds and hearts of those people who do not yet have a sense for the sacredness of human life or are lacking in compassion, understanding of the poorest and most deprived youth and neglected children.. I call on them, to join the movement to protect the rights of children and support the NOGs helping those children. That is a noble and spiritual thing to do.

Our work protecting the rights of oppressed and abused children at the PREDA Foundation like that of the NGOs of Davao has earned PREDA a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for 2001 and the German and Italian Human Rights Awards for 2000 and 2001 respectively. These international awards are a recognition that Filipino children must not be treated as inferior and that they are of the greatest importance. They cannot be treated like pests to be eliminated but should have a chance to live as respected and cherished members of the human family.

I call on the media to be supportive of the rights of children, endorse all human rights and to resist any move to impose censorship or curtail freedom of speech through judicial means. Freedom means that we can exercise the right to speak out for Human Rights and to protect the most vulnerable as God has called us to do. What we do to the poorest of these children and youth we do to Jesus Christ.

Fr. Shay Cullen (signature)

After the court decision, the NGO groups, the street children and the rest went to Centennial Park where there was a victory celebration. The taste of victory is sweet – but there was also the taste of ashes: there was the fear, uncertainty and worry: is the era of the Death Squads over, or will there be more killings?

Fr. Sean Purcell CSSR

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