There is so much child abuse, human trafficking, injustice, oppression, poverty, inequality, and violence in the world many can feel overwhelmed and sometimes hopeless.
But when one has Christian faith and believes with conviction that justice, truth, and goodness will overcome evil, we then have hope that change for the better will happen.
Last year 2023, it did happen for Angeline and 19 more child victims of abuse that were healed and empowered at the Preda Foundation therapeutic home for abused children.
We will celebrate that and the victories of about 503 more Preda children who won convictions against their abusers since 1996 when we first opened the girls’ home. On 22 February 2024, we will celebrate 50 years of service to Filipino children.
All the children suffered as Angeline did but they won victory eventually. Angeline (not her real name) was once a hurt, damaged, defeated, and broken child. She was a victim of rape by sexual assault by her stepfather.
She was depressed, unable to talk to anyone, and closed in on herself out of fear and intimidation. She had nothing to live for, her life was over she felt.
Eventually, she told someone and was rescued and found refuge, healing, and protection at the Preda Home for Girls. There, she got the strength to confront her abuser in her Emotional Release Therapy.
In the padded therapy room, she poured out her buried feelings of hurt, pain, and anger that she had held in for so long. The release was a powerful feeling of freedom. It was liberation from the fear, pain, and humiliation of being used for the sexual gratification of an adult.
Then after a few months at Preda, she found the courage to file her case with the prosecutor in Bataan and the case went to trial in the sala of Judge Dorina S. Castro-Baltazar. The Preda social worker was allowed in the court to give support.
Angeline testified with courage and told all that had happened to her clearly and with conviction to the judge and withstood the severe cross-examination.
Recently, the great day of promulgation came, the waiting was over, and the stunning decision was read out. The judge noted in her Decision that Angeline testified with “spontaneity, honesty and sincerity.”
The Decision said that her stepfather Jomar Landicho y Miranda was guilty of having committed two crimes of rape with sexual assault against her beyond reasonable doubt. It was a great victory, justice had prevailed.
Angeline had been believed, the truth came out and the one thing left was Judgement. Jomar Landicho of Samal, Bataan was sentenced to eight to 17 years of imprisonment on each conviction.
There was relief, happiness, and stronger faith. Truth had brought justice and it had overwhelmed the evil of child rape. He will be in prison where he can abuse no more children and hopefully repent, ask forgiveness, and accept his penance.
That brings to 20 convictions won last year 2023 by twenty-five courageous Preda children who dared to ask for justice and found it through the courts with the help of Preda social workers and para-legal officers. (One trafficker abused several children)
In 2022, there were 21 convictions won by the Preda children. So with an average rate of 18 convictions a year since 1996 when we opened the home for abused girls, that is 28 years ago and a stunning total of 504 convictions of child rapists and abusers and traffickers was achieved.
More than 1,000 children have been healed and empowered at the Preda home since 1996. Not all can file cases because of a lack of detailed evidence or because the abusers are dead or in hiding. About 120 abused and trafficked children are healed, empowered, and educated at Preda every year.
Many of them have filed cases against their abusers and are suffering frustration and sometimes having tantrums because of the snail pace of prosecutors and courts to give them justice.
Some police are unable or unwilling to arrest the suspects or take favors not to do so, although the arrest warrants are on all their computers. The children can’t go home until they testify in court.
The record of 22 convictions in one year 2022 still stands and is a tribute to the good judges and prosecutors that do their duty with integrity and commitment. However, we need a special children’s court to deliver justice faster than three years for each case.
The good judges decide in a little more than one year. The slow judges allow so many delaying tactics by defense attorneys that unduly favor the accused.
Delays allow the defendant to persuade the parents of the child victim to withdraw the case and settle out of court with payments. Some give dire threats to the family of the child victim. This has to stop.
It is a corrupt practice a blight on the Philippines and a betrayal of children. Delay is a manipulation of a flawed system of justice that denies justice to child victims. Preda wrote to the Supreme Court administrator about these long court delays and they are taking note of the tardy judges.
The tardy judges don’t realize that the child has to stay in the protective custody of Preda until she testifies. Then, having testified with self-confidence, the child can be reintegrated into her family and join the Preda aftercare support program to ensure the continuation of her ongoing education.
Twenty court convictions this year by Preda supported and empowered children alone is another convincing win and a powerful validation of the unique healing and empowerment therapy at the Preda home that has Emotional Release Therapy.
Every child caring home can adopt it with their therapist trained for free by Preda therapists. They have to contact Preda. This is part of a healing program to enable the victim to freely cry, shout, and scream out her anger, hurt, and pain at her abuser. https://youtu.be/G0fFNmHSYic
The greatest evil of our time is violence against children, killing, bombing, murdering, trafficking and sexually abusing them. Child sexual abuse and assault are the most painful and shocking experiences a child can endure.
That is why there is a rule of law, a justice system in human society to hold its members to account for their criminal action. We urgently need new legislation establishing a children’s court with more just and committed prosecutors and judges to deliver that justice without fear or favor.
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.