The Joy of Child Freedom
Fr. Shay Cullen
This was a very happy Christmas and New Year celebration for the 70 children- boys and girls- in the PREDA children’s homes in Zambales. They are recovering and finding a new life.
The boys are from the ages of nine to 15 years old and have been rescued from terrible sub-human jail conditions. The girls have been rescued from the rapists and the sex bars. Some are victims of human trafficking and sex slavery. Other are rescued from their abusive parents.
The greatest moment for the children is to be rescued from cages and the prison cells or saved from brothels and rapists. To be rescued and be brought to a place that is in a beautiful location in the countryside surrounded by nature and to feel safe from the abusers is what the children tell as their greatest joy.
The first thing a child will experience in the Preda children’s home is freedom, respect and a feeling that they are wanted and belong to a family.
It is the community spirit of affirmation, support, encouragement, respect and dignity that the children love. They are taught their rights and human dignity and received therapy and values formation and education.
They soon learn that the abuse done to them is a heinous crime, that it is always wrong for the adult and the children are not to blame. Usually the adult will claim that the child seduced them and the child gave consent. This cannot be upheld anywhere.
The case of Marianne is a case of abduction and human trafficking of a deaf and mute child who had no way to cry out and defend herself or even to make a complaint. A woman using sign language offered her snacks and food in a convenience store in the town. There she was introduced to two men and they brought her to a hotel and raped her continually for almost 24 hours.
Her sister was looking for her and traced her to the hotel and called the police. The rapists were arrested and Marianne was rescued. But her two sisters took her home but blamed her and shaved off her hair as a punishment as if she had been responsible for her own abduction.
Marianne’s grandmother got help from the Preda social workers and Marianne found shelter and protection and therapy at the Preda Home for Girls. It was a difficult case but the therapists and social workers communicated with her with the basic sign language taught to them by her sister.
The police chief of Castillejos, Zambales allowed the suspects to walk free without filing charges for reasons unknown and it’s not the first time abusers are granted impunity.
Later the Preda social workers filed the charges but the suspects have long fled. Marianna was saved from abduction and sex slavery. Later she was reintegrated to the loving care of her grandmother and is still in the Preda outreach care program.
So many of these children on the street and in jails are suffering rejection, physical and verbal abuse and worst of all some suffer grave sexual abuse. They are driven out of the homes to the streets and are immediately abducted and recruited by pimps and human traffickers and sold to paedophiles, bars and brothels for the foreign and local sex tourists.
Poverty is a large factor in this as the children are neglected and go hungry in the shacks and hovels of city squatters. They are subjected to abusive language and bad treatment. A recent survey in the Philippines discovered that 50 percent of the population of 104 million people consider themselves poor. (See http://www.preda.org) While the vast majority of Filipino parents are kind, loving and very protective of their children, a segment have been themselves abused and they repeat that abuse in a cycle of violence. They don’t know how to give love because they never received any. The Preda Homes try to change the parents’ and relative’s attitudes by family therapy. The children will hopefully never repeat what was done to them.
How parents live, behave and care for the family and respect and help their neighbors has a huge impact on the children. If the children see and feel the concern of the parents for them and for others, they know that they themselves are truly loved. They will in turn grow up to be young adults with strong values and with love, concern and compassion for others and for their own children.
The majority of these child detention centers are under the direct control and responsibility of the municipal or city administrations and the national office of the president and the secretary of social welfare and development (DSWD) have little jurisdiction over them. The local government officials are illegally detaining the children.
What is needed is a new law to give back the responsibility and care of abused and neglected children to the national government and more international intervention to bring the Philippine local governments to respect the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Philippine child protection laws.
For children to be physically, sexually and psychologically abused inside government facilities is a serious crime. See http://www.preda.org/gallery. Who is capable of bringing charges against them? We can protest and challenge government to change this situation and allow us to give new life to these children.