CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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The process of justice and injustice

The Avila sex bar in Calapandayan, Subic town, Zambales, has been closed with a steel gate since the hand of justice came to that place when we rescued young girls from sex slavery and the domineering  power of the owner, 49-year-old Arthur David Benjamin, of the United States of America (US), on 6 February 2013.
 
 Along that national road, many other sex bars and brothels have been abandoned and closed out of fear since 2013. The information that led to the raid was provided with the help of retired undercover Australian federal police. (See the documentary, Children of the Sex Trade on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34XihiVaX_o).
 
With that information, the director of the Preda Foundation sent Preda social workers to confirm it. Then he contacted the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to take action. Preda also contacted US Homeland Security since Arthur Benjamin was a US national. They assigned a special agent to join the NBI in the investigation to conduct further surveillance.
 
On 6 February 2013, together with social workers from Preda and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the NBI simultaneously raided Avila’s bar and the nearby Miami Hotel and they had government dentists confirm that the girls working in the bar were indeed minors. The Homeland Security agent also assisted. (see The Raid on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xRCk8Ni-cs).
 
In all, as many as 15 young girls were rescued and Arthur David Benjamin stood trial in Olongapo City before the efficient and reliable Judge Maria Christina Mendoza-Pizarro. Benjamin eventually pleaded guilty to a lower charge. Mendoza-Pizzaro ruled that apart from the sentence served, Benjamin had to pay a serious amount of money as compensation and moral damages to the child victim who was the main complainant. It is a big victory for justice for the child and young victims, and success for the Preda social workers who started the investigation and saw it through to the end.  
 
That was not the end of Benjamin’s troubles. US Homeland Security at the US Embassy takes a keen interest in all US Nationals in the Philippines suspected of links to nefarious child abuse or pornography. They had Benjamin, his cronies and supporters under surveillance as they gathered evidence.
 
The Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) soon had the evidence against Benjamin and charged him under US Law Title 18, U.S.C. 2423 (c) for Engaging in Illicit Sexual Conduct in Foreign Places before a United States magistrate judge on 18 March 2018. The first count is that he had illicit sex with a 16-year old between March 2012 through to December 2012.   
 
The second count was similar, as he allegedly continually violated the same law. He is accused of allegedly having illicit sex with a minor between 18 January to 6 February 2013. He admitted this to investigators. It is likely he could serve many years in a US prison.
 
Other countries have similar extra territorial laws but they do not use them much, if at all. When the abusers or rapist escapes the country where he committed the crime, he should be tried in his own country. Justice for children abused abroad should be a priority for all countries. But for the United States, it is a top priority as it should be.
 
In 1996, Preda Foundation rescued two child victims abused by German and Dutch child sex abusers in a Boracay beach resort. The suspected abusers were arrested but managed to escape. Preda pursued the case in Germany. 
 
This writer travelled to the town of Iserlohn (North Rhine-Westphalia) and talked with the prosecutor. The case was brought before Judge Vaupel and the court paid the airfare and hotel for the two children and their social worker. They gave their testimony in court and were believed. 
 
However, while the accused was found guilty he was sentenced to only two-and-a-half years in jail. That was all the law allowed.
 
In some countries in Europe, the judges and the law appear to be more sympathetic to the abusers and forget the trauma and pain of rape and abuse of the victims. I wrote recently that the judges in some European countries like France and Finland and elsewhere insist that to convict for child rape, there has to be proven violence and coercion and, in some situations, that the victim must resist and fight back. 
 
It is impossible most times to prove force was used and unjust for the rape law to expect children to fight back against a dominant male abuser. The law favours the child rapist.
 
Recently in Ireland, a Dublin man was convicted and sentenced to 18 months for possessing and transmitting child pornography on his cellphone. The sentence is unjustly too low but it was then suspended. He walked free. This is a travesty of justice. 
 
The judge seems to have shown more sympathy for the guilty than for the helpless child victims who were raped and abused in the making of the pornographic images. They are violated and abused every time their images are viewed and shared. 
 
Some judges need sensitivity training to give just sentences and to protect children.
 
 Visit our website at www.preda.org and our official Facebook page.
 
 
 
Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.org