CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Working to jail the child abusers

When put on trial in Pasay City, Metro Manila, child sex abusers can expect a conviction and a harsh sentence of life in prison without parole from judge, Tingaraan Guiling, if the evidence warrants it. 
 
On February 12, a just decision based on the evidence, was handed down against Roque Galve, for the aggravated sexual assault and rape of a minor, let’s call her Rose. The judge is to be commended for doing justice for the abused child and many more like her.
 
Galve was the live-in partner of Rose’s mother and he took advantage of the child being mentally challenged. Her mother did not protect the child and sided with the abuser. He sexually assaulted Rose by inserting his fingers into her. 
 
A psychologist testified that Rose was capable of telling exactly what had happened to her and she did. Her younger sister saw the abuse happening and testified also. 
 
Medical evidence supported the child’s testimony and a neighbour, who heard the child cry out, looked into the room and saw the abuse happen. He also testified.
 
Galve was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of raping the child and was convicted under the Child Protection Law, otherwise known as Republic Act 7610, and the Anti-Rape Law, otherwise known as Republic Act 8353, and ordered to pay 75,000 pesos as civil indemnity, 75,000 pesos in moral damages and 50,000 pesos in exemplary damages. 
 
That’s what awaits child rapists and their supporters and enablers when justice catches up with them. We will continue to see that it does.
 
Rose is safe and protected at the Preda children’s home 40 minutes drive from the Preda main office in Olongapo City and is recovering. She is growing in self-confidence and is much stronger than ever before. 
 
She had her Emotional Expression Therapy and cried out all the emotional pain she’s suffering. She shouted at her abuser and unburdened herself of the stress and hurt that weighed her down. She is now happy, playing and learning every day. A success story for sure.
 
This is just one of thousands of cases that are pending in the courts, yet many perpetrators go unpunished because they hide away when there is an arrest warrant against them.
 
The record of the Philippine National Police in finding and arresting them is dismal. However, sometimes the suspects come back to the scene of their crime and with a tip off, Preda social workers can show the arrest warrant and bring the police to where they are and have them arrested. Then the trial can proceed.
 
We win only about four or five convictions a year, although we have about 35 cases against child sexual abusers pending in the courts. The Philippine constitution allows for them to have due process of law but they can be tried in absentia if they have been arraigned and then fail to appear to answer the charges in court.
 
However, most of the accused suspects in child abuse cases flee before the arraignment. They must be caught and brought to court and held accountable. Seeking justice is an important part of healing for the victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
 
There are hundreds of thousands of survivors who have never been able to speak out about being raped and abused, although these days the #MeToo movement is giving a platform for women of all ages to speak out about their terrible experience of being abused or sexually harassed. Children too must be encouraged to speak out without fear or intimidation.
 
In the Philippines, bringing a criminal charge is not very difficult or expensive. The public prosecutor will fight the case for the abused children and the good dedicated prosecutors will get convictions.
 
A German national, Konrad Weber, was put on trial in Gingoog City and, with a committed prosecutor and a just judge that could not be bribed, Weber was found guilty of child abuse. He sexually abused several small boys. He received a sentence of life in prison. 
 
He is now on trial again for other acts of sexual abuse of other small boys. He allegedly abused them in Butuan City some years ago.
 
Preda Foundation has helped and supported the boys who are all from very poor families. They too told their stories to social workers and justice was done. 
 
Young people need encouragement and support to tell their stories of abuse. When everyone has the ability and courage to speak out and report abuse and support victims then this scourge of woman and child abuse will be greatly diminished.
 
It is known that one in every four children suffers sexual abuse worldwide. 
 
This is a shocking statistic, a reality that we cannot forget or ignore. We must be aware that child sexual abuse is a common practice that cannot be ignored by apathy and indifference. Caring adults ought to be sensitive and aware that a disturbed child may have a story of abuse to tell and they should listen with sympathy and understanding.
 
Fighting for justice for children and with children is just part of our work besides helping rescue abused children from human traffickers and abusers and bringing them to justice. In the meantime the child is protected and safe in the Preda home for girls.
 
Children everywhere need you to be their helper and defender. 
 

Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.org