THE front page of a widely circulated tabloid said it all in just one message in extra large bold letters: “Kids made to perform sex acts in detention.” Sensational indeed but true, very shockingly true. That is just one of the many violations that children as young as 8 years old suffer in government-run and even badly supervised private shelters in the Philippines. This is the truth and reality that was being covered up and denied during the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines last 15 January to 19.
We know it is true and real because at the Preda Foundation the community and social workers rescued many of them in the past years and months. The week before the Pope’s visit 6 more minors were rescued by Preda and this writer including an 8 year old street child.
Kids being held behind bars is nothing new. We exposed this 15 years ago with graphic images from several jails on ITV, CNN and in The Manila Times and other media outlets including this column many times but all to no avail. The officials don’t see or read these reports or if they do they turn the other way.
Perhaps some officials consider the children as riff-raff eyesores, pests and a blight on society. The elite that run this country have no love of the poor. They make up 1% of the 101.4 million Filipinos and live in sumptuous ostentatious luxury. The most notorious thieves and criminals in the national penitentiary live it up with air-conditioned plush rooms with double beds, female visitors, drugs, money, widescreen HD tvs, cell phones, guns and stacks of money.
Good on Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima and her team to find it out and close it down in a few days. The politicians, senators and a former president are presently jailed for plunder of billions of pesos and have private villas instead of cells.
The children are jailed in harsh dehumanizing abusive conditions. The 8 year olds are forced to do sex acts on other older teenagers every night. Because of this sexual abuse behind bars is one of many reasons why children as young as 8 to 15 should never, never be detained in jail cells, or rooms with older boys without direct adult supervision.
They are forced to do these sex acts and are themselves raped. We at the Preda Foundation know this from the disclosures of the child victims themselves because that is our special work and mission — to save as many as we can form these government-run detention centers.
When the Pope’s visit came closer and he wanted to meet street children the media asked where were they. So that is how the kids in detention centers became a media expose and photos of this history of child abuse from the past until the present were published to show it is not an isolated incident but a long term problem.
A government official said it was done to get donations. That is a sordid suggestion and ignores the many years of campaigning against such abuse including a street rally last October outside the worst child detention center of all, the RAC a short walk from the Manila City Hall.
It is a notorious place where, as the photos show, a child was handcuffed to a post. Another photo showed a starving naked child thrown on the ground and left apparently to die without help. These and many more crimes against children were allowed to go without investigation, accountability being pinned on officials iresponsible or anyone being charged with the crimes. A government official said the abuse was in the past and as if it didn’t matter. There is no statute of limitations on the crimes of rape, murder, child abuse. The same official now says the RAC will be closed down. So the photos told the truth.
Pope Francis came to visit the poor, the victims of the typhoon and address poverty and it’s root causes in the rule of the elite millionaires, their corruption and exploitation of the poor.
He came to bring compassion, mercy, support and inspiration. He brought all those virtues, blessings in abundance and with informal touch and viable human feelings. He spoke from the heart and not always from written text and brought tears to the eyes of many standing in the pouring rain in Tacloban as another tropic storm belted the Philippines.
They came in their thousands and then their millions, five million is the estimated gathering at the final celebration of Eucharist in Manila before he returned to Rome.
Those who were not allowed see him or be seen by him were the very poorest of the poor. The street dwellers, about one hundred families or more and their children living in the hovels and pushcarts along Roxas Boulevard were fetched by 7 buses and brought for a five day holiday in a plush beach resort south of Manila. A happy few days for them.
At Preda Foundation we are willing to accept to the Preda home, which is an open educational and therapeutic home, children from the streets.
We will train for free qualified staff who may work in a new government home where the dignity, rights and needs of children are truly served. We have been doing this for many years. firstname.lastname@example.org