CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 February 2019

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Justice for abused children

Hundreds of children are sexually abused in the Philippines daily and millions are abused around the world. Strict justice is needed and an unrelenting crackdown on child abusers is what is needed to protect children from sexual abuse.
 
More Filipino child abusers are being convicted than ever before. Judges are delivering justice. Nationals of the United States of America (US), accused based on credible evidence of child sexual abuse in the Philippines or those who returned to the US, are “persons of interest” or are even under surveillance by the dedicated investigators of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit at the US Embassy in Manila and their counterparts in the US.
 
They have successfully investigated many cases and gathered sound credible evidence against US nationals that will stand up in a US court of law. 
 
Arthur Benjamin finally pleaded guilty to crimes of child abuse and, after more than four years in a harsh Philippine jail, he was deported and placed on trial in California. This was done under US extraterritorial jurisdiction law. He died a few months ago. 
 
His interview about his sexual exploits with underage girls was captured on camera by ABC TV in New York. You can watch The Raid at www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xRCk8Ni-cs  
 
The latest arrest is that of involves 78-year-old American Catholic priest, Kenneth Hendricks (Sunday Examiner, December 16). He was arrested on December 5 in Naval, Biliran, the southeastern Philippines by Homeland Security agents and stands accused of abusing children during his 40 years in the Philippines. 
 
The District Court of Ohio issued a warrant for Hendricks’s arrest on November 11, and he faces federal charges for engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country, a US crime. While he is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, he is being extradited to the US to stand trial. 
 
United States federal law provides “extraterritorial jurisdiction” over certain sex offenses against children by US nationals. Extraterritorial jurisdiction is the legal authority of the United States to prosecute criminal conduct that took place outside its borders. Section 2423(c) of Title 18, United States Code, and Sections1596, 3261, and 3271 provide for extraterritorial jurisdiction in sex trafficking and child exploitation offenses.  
 
The Preda Foundation has been successful in bringing Filipino nationals to trial in the Philippines for child abuse. 
 
In 2018, it pursued justice for several child victims. They sought refuge and help at the Preda Home for Girls. There, they received help in overcoming the trauma, grew in self-confidence, were educated, protected and empowered to file charges. 
 
Many bravely and courageously testified after months of Emotional Release Therapy in the home for abused children. They succeeded in testifying and fighting for their rights and won 16 convictions. 
 
Of their abusers, 15 were sentenced to life in prison. One received four years for acts of lasciviousness. 
 
The Preda home is headed by Marlyn Capio-Richter, a registered social worker and paralegal officer of the Preda Foundation’s Victoria Home for Girls. www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0yuV0XEz98.
 
As early as 2006, Preda took a court case against a German national who abused children in the Philippines. The judge invited the victims and witnesses to Germany where the case was tried. They testified and won the case and the child sex abuser was convicted and jailed. 
 
More recently here in the Philippines, five boys, who are victims of a British pedophile, Douglas Slade, testified by video link to a High Court judge sitting in London and recounted how he sexually abused them. He defended himself from a Bristol jail where he is serving a 24-year sentence after being convicted for historical sex abuse committed against young people in the United Kingdom (UK).
 
This December, the five Filipino boys abused by Slade won their civil case demanding compensation and will hopefully receive a large payment. It’s the first time in history that Filipinos took on and won such a case in the UK. It is significant that the British judicial system pursued justice equally for children abused in the UK and in a foreign country. 
 
These arrests, trials, convictions and victories will encourage other victims to come forward and tell their stories and be believed. The pro bono lawyers from Hugh James Law Office in the UK, Allen Collins and Samuel Barker, did a magnificent job in preparing the case and senior solicitor Mr. Levinson presented the case in court. Now, they have the task of discovering where Slade has hidden his money. 
 
Slade falsely claimed to the court that he had been set up by Father Shay Cullen and Preda. This is the ruling of the judge, Mark Gargan: “I reject the defendant’s suggestion of impropriety on the part of Father Cullen, Ms Capio Richter or PREDA generally. In my judgment, PREDA created a receptive environment in which vulnerable victims might work through their problems and therefore be able to explain more fully the nature of the abuse that they had undergone.
 
I found Father Cullen to be an impressive witness. I am wholly satisfied that he was honest and doing his best to assist the court with what he knew about the relevant events. Father Cullen was able to explain why he had a longstanding interest in the defendant’s conduct and I wholly reject any suggestion that Father Cullen was engaged in some form of witch-hunt against the defendant or that he would be prepared to manufacture or manipulate evidence. In any event, it is significant that his involvement and that of Ms Capio-Richter came about only after the complaints had been lodged with the police.” '
 
So justice has been done and we hope there will be many more convictions and this will make the world a safer place for children.
 
 
Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.org