Sex tourism is a world wide reality and those who deny it are living far from reality. In the Philippines an estimated 60,000 commercially sexually exploited children are suffering abuse and lost childhoods according to a UNICEF estimate and millions more worldwide. There are stringent laws against it that are not being enforced. It is a twenty billion dollar world wide trade in humans and it involves the slavery of women and children.
Many underage girls and boys are forced into drug use in order to control them and are beaten if they disobey the pimps and traffickers. They are sold to the sex bars and tourists. This evil trade enjoys impunity because the sex and drug mafia set out to corrupt and compromise police, prosecutors, judges and politicians. There are few convictions of child abusers and traffickers. Charges of child abuse or trafficking despite strong evidence are mysteriously dropped by prosecutors or judges and the suspects go free, usually the decision says for “lack of evidence”.
Exploitative tourism has become so acceptable and above criticism that neither church nor state actively opposes it and local government gives the sex bars permits to operate calling it “foreign investments”.
I can never forget the 11 year-old child Angelica rescued by PREDA Social workers from pimps and pedophiles on the streets of Angeles City. She was sold for sex several times to foreign sex tourists who paid as little as a hundred dollars for her to the pimp she got the equivalent of two dollars. Although the PREDA Foundation brought charges against her pimp endless delays and postponements by the court caused the child additional trauma. There was no justice, no healing for her. Speedy trial for child victims is rare if ever. More privileges are given by the courts to the accused. In our twenty years experience male judges seem to trivialize child sex abuse and favor the abuser, the judge makes himself a suspect.
In another case in Olongapo City the judge removed Michelle, the child victim from the PREDA protective home and gave her back to the pimps, her own parents, who had sold her to an Australian child rapist. The case then failed and the abuser escaped back to Sydney. It’s like an act of treason.
Angelica is a deeply disturbed child and suffers from childhood neglect and sexual abuse by her uncle. The psychological wounds will never fully heal. When she was first rescued she was withdrawn, saw herself as worthless and nothing but a sex object and no longer a child. Her life was over before it had begun. Eventually with therapy, support, encouragement and the loving family of children and staff at the PREDA home for abused children she grew stronger and overcame the worst of her trauma.
So when government officials give permits to the sex bars where young girls are raped and trafficked from rural villages they are responsible for every destroyed young life. They trivialize sex with minors and young girls raise suspicions that they might indulge in it themselves. A Mayor in Zambales is on trial for such child abuse and more recently a Department of Education official in Negros has been arrested and charged with trafficking and the sexual abuse of minors. To end such corruption President Aquino must end the sex trade, it must be seen for what it is, not only sex tourism but institutionalized sexual slavery unworthy of the Philippine nation.
It is a great evil that comes from the “Do what you like” permissive attitude of city officials whereby sex tourists can abuse and exploit women and children with deference and impunity. It gives rise to bad example and Filipino families are affected. The other PREDA’s home for children is filled with victims of incest. Abused by their own fathers or a relative, many of whom get addicted to underage sex in the sex bars do it at home. Some child victims are made pregnant by their own father or a relative and it is traumatic for the child. Some child sex abuse victims are found suffering from venereal disease after being abused by their own fathers or a relative. One 4-year-old was brought to the PREDA shelter was found infected with syphilis by her father. He picked up the disease in the bars.
This is stark evidence that the sex industry is corrupting families and spreading child abuse in the community. Few officials seem not to care and the church leadership is silent. All who truly believe in defending human rights, protecting women and children and truly care for people and Filipino dignity will never tolerate this. It is a shameful dirty business that is destroying innocent lives we need do all we can to see it closed down and redeem the dignity of the Filipino people. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fr. Shay Cullen is President/CEO of Preda Foundation, Inc., a Philippine human rights social development organization working for 34 years through fair trade practices to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in society and overcome injustice and poverty. There are 88 professional Filipino staff implementing the 12 projects of Preda (see www.preda.org).