Pope Francis on children’s rights

Pope Francis on children’s rights

January 3, 2015 9:50 pm

by Father Shay Cullen

POPE Francis will be visiting the Philippines on January 15, he will surely speak on children’s rights. In his New Year’s message he has spoken out on the root causes of human trafficking and slavery and calls on all people of good will to be part of the solution. There have to be many more people acting against this evil, he says, as there are working for it, if we are defeat it. Every one ought to be alert aware and active in reporting abuse. Not to report abuse when possible is to approve it and in some cases the cover up is a crime in itself.

Pope Francis called sex slavery a crime against humanity. This has heartened and strengthened all of the people working to end this most cruel form of human bondage. It is a crime rampant here in the Philippines as in most countries.

It is a crime that is allegedly tolerated and supported by some local government officials by the approval of a mayor’s business permit and license for sex bars. Barangay captains sometimes negotiate a pay-off to the parents of victims and the abuser goes free, the captain gets a share of the money. The suspect is free to abuse again and there is no therapy, healing or justice for the child victim. It is a degradation of human dignity and an insult to the Filipino people.

Even clergy are sometimes abusers and cover up is common. Catholic parents and lay leaders are deeply troubled by this practice. Pope Francis has declared zero tolerance for such abuse and human trafficking and the Philippine bishops have to follow his example by action instead of presiding over sumptuous weddings for celebrity show-biz personalities as an archbishop and eight bishops did recently with seven priests. Some of the Hierarchy are quick to condemn the innocent as sinners but cannot see their own failings. Pope Francis will be very upset. I have been open on Vatican radio about these issues.

But action for justice is what is needed. Every dioceses ought to have a human rights action team of Pro Bono dedicated lawyers and paralegal officers to help the victims. Thats unheard off here. If there are any, please contact Preda foundation. Jesus of Nazareth had zero tolerance when he said a millstone ought be tied around the neck of abusers who should be thrown into the deepest sea. (Matthew 18. Vs.5-6) Forgiveness can only follow Justice, repentance and penance and healing for the victims.

Masina was only 13 years old where she was abused in her own home by the live-in partner of her mother and when she complained and cried for help her mother did not believe her and called her a liar and slapped her. She could not take it and ran from the house and went to Manila and slept rough in the Luneta park. There in the shadow of the monument to Rizal the great liberator and himself a victim of injustice Masina slept. The next morning she was approached by a police officer who threatened to bring her to the jail for “vagrancy.”

A women was hovering nearby and pleaded with the police and “rescued” Masina and took her for a meal. She was brought to Olongapo City, the archway over the highway greeted her with the message; “Welcome to the home of the most beautiful women in the world.” She was told she would be a beautiful working woman. After some weeks of mental conditioning and flattery Masina became dependent and in debt. Then unable to escape she was sold for sex every night to different foreign customers for US$300. She was a sex slave like thousands of others.

Only after she was rescued by Preda Foundation Social workers was she was free to tell her story. After several months Masina was strong enough to testify in court against Janice and the foreign bar operator.

Another most important issue for Pope Francis to speak about in the Philippines is the illegal arrest and detention of young children by police and local government officials and incarcerating them in horrific detention centers. Many children, some as young as 8 years old are held behind bars with older prisoners and many are sexually abused. They suffer trauma and unimaginable stress and anxiety.

In the jails the children suffer continuous multiple violations of their human rights, dignity and decency. We at Preda Foundation know first hand because we have rescued many children from these detention centers and give them a new life.

One of the many victims Pope Francis will likely not hear about is his namesake, Francisco (not real name) A 12 year-old boy , (or younger) who was photographed lying on the concrete ground in the open yard of RAC. He was put on public display, naked, skeletal and wounded and left to die, it appeared. This was in the Manila City child detention center known as the Reception and Action Center (RAC). Many other children suffer sever neglect and wounds and some have allegedly died. Franciso was rescued and cared for, he is now well and recovered.

He was not alone either. Then there is another case Angel, a 13 year old little girl, clad only in a flimsy dress she was chained to a post and left there crying while the other children were allegedly encouraged to throw pebbles at her as she screamed in pain, fear and anguish.

Priests, pastors and social workers and lawyers are banned from the Manila detention center (RAC) facility for speaking out against the abuse. Holy Mass is not allowed. The children have no one to turn to.

The banning is to hide the abuse and bad conditions and prevent further revelations of the truth and the gathering of evidence from the children themselves as to the alleged crimes of neglect and abuse and the sub-human conditions in the RAC. The children are skinny and some are severely malnourished, while the employees are well fed.

The national government ought to place all the children in other facilities under the protection and care of the national office of “Dinky” Soliman, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.(DSWD).

They must have a recovery program and professional standards for the managers and social workers. A total reform of the RAC with professional trained staff is necessary. Openness and transparency are essential. Preda Foundation offers free training.

We are all challenged to do good and help end this evil. Readers can report abuse at +639175324453. Social workers, teachers, community workers can come visit the Preda center, join organized seminars, training and hold a conference on children’s rights and students can do internship. Working together we can end sex tourism and child abuse. shaycullen@preda.org

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