Respect, Affirmation, Dignity, Restores Broken Lives

by Fr. Shay Cullen

It’s no secret that guards, police and barangay officials beat, abuse, kick and humiliate Filipino youth when apprehended and later awaiting trial in jails and detention centers. Their testimonies and their medical examinations when released prove it. It happens in the UK also as the Observer newspaper recently exposed a government manual that taught guards how to beat, punch and gouge youth in privately run UK detention centers.

In the Philippines and many developing countries the youth and children, abandoned street children are arbitrarily arrested and held in medieval dungeon like conditions without beds, toilets, showers, dining facilities, exercise, sunshine, entertainment, recreation or education for months on end. They endure hunger, under-nutrition, lack of medical care, suffer diseases, scabies and some are brutalized and sexually abused by older inmates and guards.

They may be guilty but have not been convicted and are too poor to pay bail. They are held for weeks, months and even years before their case is heard and finished. Then it is frequently dismissed for lack of evidence.

The Philippines is 80 percent Catholic and these inhuman conditions continue despite laws forbidding it. That needs a national examination of conscience and repentance. Jesus Christ said: “When I was in jail you came to visit me”… “So long as you did it to one of these the neediest of all you did it to me”. But who really cares? They are God’s children whom Jesus called to himself but society rejects them.

Likewise the general silence and failure of religious leaders and church goers to act and protest against the widespread rape, abuse and exploitation of children trafficked into the sex industry, the wide-scale abortion and incest it promotes, will surely bring God’s condemnation and great shame on all.

Faith without action is dead, St. James says. We live with shame that stuns the world and that will continue until the sword of justice is raised and lady justice pulls off that blindfold to see the injustice and act to end the suffering of abuse victims.

Non-implementation of the law to save the victims of sex tourism and the dismissal by some prosecutors of trafficking and child abuse cases is shocking beyond belief. The endless courtroom delays, the sickening sympathy for the suspects of child rape and the legal manipulation that allows the rapists to go free is the most depressing and the worst corruption imaginable.

The greatest challenge of the Aquino Administration and Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima is to end this culture of corruption and blatant bribery that is robbing the poor Filipinos of the respect and dignity that they truly deserve.

While there are thousands of courageous Filipinos out in the streets, visiting jails and courtrooms fighting for the victims, there is little support for their heroic efforts. Their greatest enemy is apathy and indifference to the plight of the children in this nation.

The cries of the victims for justice go mostly unheard and all the while children are raped by local and international sex tourists, and relatives. Many are made pregnant, children are having children, that’s when the abortionists don’t get them first.

In the Preda homes for abused children, the teenage mothers get all the help and support they need to give birth in dignity and decency and bring up the child in a safe and in a healthy environment.

Despite all the physical and psychological damage, they can recover once given support, encouragement, respect, affirmation and dignity. These are the spiritual values that restore broken and wounded lives.

In the Preda home for the teenage boys who have been rescued from jails and prisons where they were once treated as rejects, criminals, vermin, pests and punch bags do respond positively to affirming respect, friendship, care and dignity. They are transforming their lives and can live without violence and crime where their needs, so long denied them, are fulfilled.

Hundreds have been released to this program over the past six years by compassionate judges and prosecutors all over Central Luzon. They come to the open center that has no walls, fences guards, or punishment and is free of abuse, physical, verbal and psychological.

They can walk away anytime but 93% choose to stay and change their lives for the better. It could be replicated for thousands still in jails. What you can do to help is to clip this article, mail it to the Hon. Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima, Padre Faura Street, Manila, Philippines. The truth may set them free.

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