| Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
It is a happy day when I can write about victories and convictions. Prosecutors are fighting hard for child rights and are winning essential convictions. Judges, too, believe the testimonies of children with a horrifying account of multiple rape and sexual assault by biological fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, and Catholic priests. These are significant victories for those who hunger or thirst for justice and have had their fill.
The children endure, survive and find the courage to overcome the fear of rejection, anger, and hatred of their abusers and their families when they point a finger and say to the court and the world, “He raped me.” That’s a powerful, courageous allegation to make, and why would they if it were not true? The wise, experienced judges of family courts know and accept these truths.
The incredible survival stories and court cases with dedicated prosecutors and good judges give victory to raped and abused children. Areza (not her real name) is one of them. When she was eight years old, Areza played with a rag-doll doll whom she called her sister because she had no family. Her father had died years ago, and abandoned by her mother, Areza was left with her two uncles. The younger Kharlo Rondolo, 27, began to rape Areza continually and frightened her into silence until she was 14. At 13, her other uncle started to rape her, also.
When she was 14, something changed in Areza. The emotional and mental paralysis ended, and she told her cousin in Subic. They went to the social worker in the town of Subic, who sent Areza to an aunt in Castillejos and failed to help Areza bring formal complaints against her uncles. There, Areza found the social worker in Castillejos and told her ordeal. She was referred to the Preda home for abused children in Sakatihan, Subic.
At the Preda home for abused children, she found peace and protection and the freedom to tell all that happened to her. She joined the Emotional Release Therapy sessions in the padded therapy room with other girls and poured out her hurt, pain, and anger. She healed, recovered, and was empowered to fight for justice. She filed her complaint with the support of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Bernardine S. Santos. During hearings, Prosecutor Santos presented the evidence strongly and coherently in an intelligent prosecution to the court. Areza testified clearly and directly and passed the strict cross-examination. Medical evidence was also presented. The uncle’s only defense was denial.
The long-experienced judge, Hon. Judge Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio, summed up the evidence. Interestingly, her Decision quoted, “Thus in the case of People Vs. Tulagan, it was pronounced that force, threat or intimidation as an element of rape is substituted by “moral Ascendency or moral authority.” The judge found no reasonable doubt whatsoever about the guilt of the accused uncle and pronounced him guilty. He will spend the rest of his life in prison, where he can never abuse more children and repent, do penance, and beg God for mercy and forgiveness. Areza has thrived at Preda and found sweet justice, freedom, and closure to that terrible six years of rape and abuse, thanks to the diligent prosecutor, Prosecutor Bernardine Santos, and Judge Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio.
I told you the story last September of Tessie, a similar story to Areza, made a sex slave by her family, abused continually by her father, brother, and their drinking buddies. Her sister was also sexually abused. Tessie, after years of sexual abuse, told a neighbor, a kind woman, of her suffering. Tessie was referred to the Preda home for protection from the evilest crime of multiple rapes.
In Emotional Release Therapy, Tessie was healed and empowered like Areza was. Helped by Prosecutor Bernardine Santos, she bravely filed charges against her abusers. Together, Tessie and Prosecutor Santos won in December 2022 the conviction of her father’s drinking buddy. He was sentenced to life in prison.
On January 23, 2023, she won another victory- the conviction of her father, who had raped her many times. Judge Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio summed it up after a lengthy trial. “The court gave credence to the positive declaration of the minor that her father raped her than the mere denial of the accused.” Her rapist father was sentenced to life in prison. Tessie’s sister has also filed a formal complaint against her older brother, who raped her several times. We await the outcome.
Another victory celebration is due for 15-year-old Jemmi. She won the conviction of Florentino Aldea for sexual assault after a compelling case intensely fought in the Family Court in Olongapo City by Prosecutor Bernadine Santos. Aldea got bail and has filed an appeal at the Court of Appeals. He and his family could harass Jemmi. She does not feel complete freedom while the convicted abuser is free. We appeal to the justices in the honorable Court of Appeals to quickly resolve child abuse cases to prevent more abuse so that justice can be done and seen to be done.
In the past weeks, another important first step for justice for Angelica (not her real name), allegedly sexually raped and assaulted by Father Karole Reward Ubina Israel when she was 15, is the resolution of Assistant City Prosecutor Kristine R. Marallag-Ave in Tuguegarao City. The diligent prosecutor resolved a complaint saying there is probable cause that rape was committed 11 times and sexual assault six times by the Catholic Priest Karole Reward Ubina Israel, 29, assistant parish priest in the parish of St. Vincent Ferrer in Solana, Cagayan. The resolution also states he violated section 4 of the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act, otherwise known as RA 9995, when he made videos taping these sexual encounters.
According to Angelica, he sent Angelica the videos and blackmailed her, threatening to post them online if she told anyone of the abuse and ordered her to submit to his vile lust and crimes. In his affidavit, the priest admitted the sexual encounters but claimed it was consensual sex, yet the prosecutor rejected that claim with forceful legal arguments. Republic Act (RA) No.11648, which does not apply in this case since it was signed into law on March 4, 2022, establishes that a minor below 16 cannot give consent to sexual acts by an older person. The full text of the powerful resolution is on www.preda.org.
Other dedicated prosecutors working with the Preda social workers have recently won convictions for child abuse victims against their abusers. Outstanding is Assistant City Prosecutor Junnie T. Esplana of Angeles City. He won the conviction of the notorious human trafficker, Allyana Isabel Fernandez, who got a life sentence.
Assistant City Prosecutor Ria Nina Sususco in Olongapo City successfully prosecuted and won a conviction of the child-abusing teacher Franco Aranas that raped his student. He is also appealing his conviction.
Another high scorer in winning the conviction of child abusers is Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Nadine Guzman in Bataan. After presenting strong evidence and the testimony of the empowered child from Preda, she won the conviction of a grandfather who raped his granddaughter several times. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Perhaps the most successful is Zambales Assistant Provincial Prosecutors Emmanuel Mas Jr. and Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Joe Mari Nacin. They are winning many convictions and getting court orders, so child victims are referred to the Preda Foundation child therapy center for therapy and healing.
The cooperation between Preda and the Department of Justice prosecutors leads to successful convictions, potent messages of advocacy that child trafficking and sexual abuse bring the severest of penalties to offenders, and freedom, retribution, and justice for child victims.
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