HomeCommentaryFreedom, poverty, and good judges

Freedom, poverty, and good judges

Freedom is the precious right of every human being. The freedom to speak the truth, to challenge evil, to dispute, criticize or challenge the ruling powers is a constitutional freedom that is now restricted and curtailed, and speaking out could mean death.

There have been more than 200 writers and broadcast journalists killed in the Philippines since 1986.

The freedom of speech and expression is almost squashed by draconian libel laws. To speak freely and challenge officials with the truth of corrupt deals or wrongdoings by powerful politicians could mean jail or assassination.

Freedom to live, survive, have a family, and prosper in security free from fear, hunger, threats, and crime are perhaps the most precious freedoms desired by humans but lacking for millions.

An estimated 16 million Filipinos live below the poverty line while a tiny elite rich have lives of luxury and plenty. The right and freedom to know the truth and act on it is vital to change the situation. So what needs to come about is greater equality and social justice.

The lack of these fundamental values puts thousands of children in conflict with the law. They survive on the streets, in gangs, and fall into temptations.

For most of them, their lives are over but good judges, named below, are among many that are giving new life to hundreds of children in conflict with the law (CICL) by compassionate application of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Law otherwise known as Republic Act 9344.

- Newsletter -

Corruption, unemployment, and poverty are at the root of children’s hardship. According to an excellent analysis by the economist Solita “Winnie” Monsod, “among the ASEAN-5, the Philippines has: “the lowest GDP per capita: a Filipino has the least income among the ASEAN-5, the most unequal distribution of income and the highest poverty headcount ratio.”

According to Professor Monsod, freedom for children to grow and develop through education is not a privilege, it is a right and it is the sworn duty of the government leaders to provide the highest quality education for the people.

Quality education is what eradicates poverty. Real education is more than grades, it is teaching and inspiring people to think and act for themselves and know the truth and choose the good always. Otherwise, poverty persists. Professor Monsod teaches us that the nation has “ the highest learning poverty rate of 90.9%, meaning among 10-year-olds, 9 out of 10 cannot understand what they are reading.”

Most Filipino children are naturally intelligent, highly motivated to learn, and are gifted with many talents yet are denied a quality education. It is no wonder that so many youths end up on the streets as dropouts and too many people become “captured, mesmerized followers” of social media celebrities not knowing they are emotional and mental prisoners of bad influencers. They believe without thinking about whatever they are told.

Again, Professor Monsod tells us that the nation suffers “the lowest Human Capital Index score of 0.52. A child born today will have 52 percent of the expected productivity she would have had if she had complete education and full health.” Besides, the good professor says that “in some international large-scale assessments, the Philippines has the lowest performance among all countries assessed.

Many millions are not fully educated. They are captives of mind-conditioning and prisoners of the political system that needs docile, dependent, non-thinking, gift -taking-voters. They are always in poverty to keep the rich elite always in power and money. With such dire poverty, the politicians have no interest to alleviate it but it enables them to stay in power and increase their own wealth and that is vote-buying power.

The poor in this system are the victims of the cycle of poverty. They have the most children because so many keep dying of hunger and disease. The nation has “the highest infant mortality, the highest child mortality, the second-to- the lowest life expectancy,” Professor “Winnie” Monsod tells us.

Freedom alone is not what makes us fully human but what use we make of our freedoms to help others preserve theirs. Are we ready, capable, and willing to take risks, oppose evil and injustice and dedicate ourselves to preserving our freedoms and those of others?

Freedom to think and reason, to know and learn and acquire knowledge of right and wrong, and make the moral free choice to act justly with compassion is to be fully human. The freedom to act and hope that good will overcome evil helps us belong to the millions of dedicated good people serving the poor. They chose serving professions that help win freedom for others from poverty and oppressed victims. Among them are the judges that have a heart for implementing the rule of law with compassion and care that saves the poor, the abused children, and the abandoned youth that fall into conflict with the law.

In Cebu, Preda Foundation’s New Dawn Home for Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) supported by Aktionsgruppe based in Germany gives freedom to the youth. The Preda staff are welcoming more youths that are given their conditional freedom from life in harsh prison conditions to a life of peace and tranquility, thanks to the just judges.

They are Judge Marlon Jay Moneva, Judge Jose Nathaniel Andal, Judge Ester Veloso, Judge Leah Geraldez, Judge Maria Dee Seares, and Judge Stephen Ian Belacho. The “Magnificent Six” six, as they are called, apply the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Law with compassion and concern to restore a life of freedom.

They are more interested in restoring life than condemning youth to life behind bars for a serious crime committed in their impetuous ill-guided youth. The Magnificent Six have an enlightened interpretation of restorative justice and have found a role as healers, carers, and supporters of compassionate freedom as the law dictates, helping these victims of systematic poverty.

They understand that the youth in conflict with the law that come before them have experienced hunger from birth and dire poverty, their constant companion to adolescence. They are young people that have survived a violent and corrupt-ridden society that, due to unsatisfied needs, fell foul of its cruel seduction and temptations.

They are the youth that has nothing in this world: no education, some no homes, others no hope of anything better in the underworld of drugs, violence, and exploitation. They are the throwaway youth of a lost generation. Because of these compassionate and wise judges, the youth have hope, a contrite heart, repentance, a plea for forgiveness, and ask only an opportunity to change, to learn, and to be healed through friendship and understanding. Where before they lived in darkness and misery, now they have champions to guide and to lead them to freedom and to find the light and their true selves and a good life.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.

© Copyright LiCAS.news. All rights reserved. Republication of this article without express permission from LiCAS.news is strictly prohibited. For republication rights, please contact us at: [email protected]

Support LiCAS.news

We work tirelessly each day to tell the stories of those living on the fringe of society in Asia and how the Church in all its forms - be it lay, religious or priests - carries out its mission to support those in need, the neglected and the voiceless.
We need your help to continue our work each day. Make a difference and donate today.