Good Government Can Protect Children from Abuse

by Fr. Shay Cullen

“Fun in the sun Philippines” | Photo by Bernard Spragg via Flickr/CC0 1.0

The brutal and barbaric torture and death of two 15-year old boys in Tondo, Manila, a few weeks ago have shocked the nation with its cruelty. The two boys, Chormel Buenaflor and Carl Justine Banogon, were found after one week floating in Isla Puting-Bato’s water. Their bodies were covered with dozens of stab wounds consistent with torture. Police say they were possibly victims of a gang war, but they were not known to belong to warring gangs. At 15 years of age, they had no criminal record. They were likely victims of a death squad trying to extract information from them about suspected drug sellers in their neighborhood.

Their throats were slit, and their hands, legs, and faces were bound with tape. This is the common practice of the death squads when they kill drug suspects and leave a warning notice on their bodies similarly bound with tape.

These killers are sometimes former or even active police that kills with impunity, believing they are immune from any investigation or accountability. Last December 20, Senior Master Police Sergeant Jonel Nuezca shot and killed his neighbor’s 52-year old Sonya Gregoria and her son, 25-year old Frank Gregoria, in Paniqui, Tarlac, North of Manila, after an argument in broad daylight before witnesses. The incident was videoed by another neighbor and shared on social media.

“You son of a bitch, you want me to finish you off now,” he said and then shot her dead as she lay on the ground, having shot her son. He then walked away, believing himself to be immune from prosecution. Such is the arrogance and ascendency of some police.

Bishop Enrique Macaraeg has spoken out, condemning this murder and many more. “Whether posted on social media or done hidden without a witness, killing is a sin. It is both a sin and a crime that cries out to heaven…Our faith assures us that this cry will reach the ears of God. There is no escaping from the justice of God even if on earth justice is hard to find,” he said. Jo Nuezca will stand trial for double murder as the Tarlac Prosecutor has charged him.

The teenagers killed in Tondo are the latest additions to the 122 children murdered in recent years that we know about. An independent investigation reported that for half of the documented killings, police officers were involved and for the other half, other shady killers wearing masks or hoods did the murders.

There is also the good, dedicated police that does help and protects the children. They are to be recognized. For example, the Women and Children Protection Center from Camp Crame investigates reports of child trafficking and systematic child sexual abuse and has rescued many victims and brought the traffickers to justice.

“No need for death squads, executions, and shootouts. The system of policing, prosecution, and justice can be made to succeed.”

Other police actively arrest the abusers when they receive an arrest warrant and get a tip-off as to the suspect’s whereabouts. That happened again this week when we at the Preda Foundation tipped off the Subic Police, and within hours they had the suspect child rapist behind bars to stand trial.

No need for death squads, executions, and shootouts. The system of policing, prosecution, and justice can be made to succeed. The active, successful prosecutors in Olongapo City and the province of Zambales, Associate City Prosecutor Ria Nina Sususco, and Associate Provincial Prosecutor Bernardine S. Santos, have brought many suspects to trial and fought the cases for the child victims and have won resounding victories. Retired Zambales Associate Provincial Prosecutor Joy Bayona has a strong track record of many successful convictions in child abuse cases.

So while justice is hard to get, there are success stories as prosecutors and judges are more dedicated. Preda Foundation social workers and staff, working with the dedicated prosecutors, have been able to win an average of 18 convictions every year for the past several years.

Prosecutor Ria Nina Sususco won the most recent conviction when two male minors, considered children in conflict with the law, were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of qualified trafficking in persons and child abuse and were ordered by Judge Gemma Theresa B. Hilario-Logronio to undergo a disposition program under the supervision of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth. Before the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Law (RA 9344) was passed, these youth would have been sentenced to many years in jails. Yet, the government youth and child detention centers are mostly youth jails where there is abuse in some places that amount to torture, as discovered by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights.

The 15-year-old victim told the Court that the two teenage minors pimped him to Franco Aranas, a teacher of the Department of Education (DepEd) assigned to New Cabalan National High School in Olongapo City who allegedly sexually abused him in a room in Sunshine Lodge, Olongapo City. Franco Aranas is facing separate criminal complaints about the use of a trafficked person and child abuse. He is also facing an administrative complaint in the DepEd for Grave Abuse.

“Those with the greatest impunity for the alleged crimes against children by omission are the Telecommunication Corporations and the Internet Service Providers.”

Those with the greatest impunity for the alleged crimes against children by omission are the Telecommunication Corporations and the Internet Service Providers. PLDT /Smart (with most shareholders in Singapore) and Globe Telecom allegedly do not obey Section 6 of RA 9775 and install up-to-date, effective filtering and blocking software to stop child pornography and live-streaming of child sex abuse online. This is our campaign since 2009, when we helped draft RA 9775.

The ISPs are so powerful they seemingly defy even the orders of powerful President Rodrigo Duterte, a man not to be trifled with. He ordered the National Telecommunication Commission to act. Last January 7, NTC issued orders to the ISPs to show cause why they should not be sanctioned for failing to install effective child pornography blocking software. So far, allegedly, they have not answered. May they obey the president in this important issue of protecting our children from such terrible physical violence and sexual abuse.

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