THERE are millions of Filipino families that are secure and whole and live out family values by giving love, care and protection and a life of dignity and education to their children. They are the vast majority and are blessed and to be admired and imitated.
There are however thousands of vulnerable and neglected children in the Filipino population of 100 million and they are at grave risk and need special protection, help, emotional recovery from abuse and the rule of law to bring their abusers to justice and have them convicted of horrid and heinous crimes.
Trained dedicated investigators, prosecutors and judges of integrity with unshakable moral values are urgently needed. Government, Church leaders and the public must act to save these children and not be part of the problem. International women’s day is celebrated this month and we have to stand with these young women who are so cruelly exploited abused and sold into sexual slavery.
They say it takes a village to bring up a child but it also takes a village to bring them down. The apathy and turning away of the authorities, and duty bearers and many in the church and the communality are failing these abused children and they are brought down to the pit of despair and suicide.
According to the International Labor Organization there are 5.2 million children in some kind of slavery in the world. Hundreds of thousands are sold into sex slavery.
As with many cases of child sexual abuse and human trafficking it starts with a broken home and neglect by relatives. Winnie, was just about 14 years old when she and her brothers and sisters were abandoned by their mother soon after their father died. They lived in Calamba, Laguna a small town south of Metro Manila.
The sister of her father, her Auntie Vilma, took her and her two sisters but did not support the children’s needs of going to school. Winnie had no chance to study and had no future. She felt unwanted, lonely and useless and with only house chores to do she was despondent, hopeless and vulnerable like many other abused children.
As happens all too frequently she was befriended and was allegedly groomed by a man in the neighborhood with the nick-name “Papa Fred.” He gave her little gifts and invited her to visit him. He began to sexually abuse her and warned her to tell no one.
To protect himself from any police investigation should there be a complaint or a report to the authorities he allegedly pimped Winnie to the Barangay Captain, a local district political authority. He raped her also.
These authority figures warned her to stay quite or something bad might happen to her and her little siblings. She was now totally in Papa Fred’s control and overpowered by fear and threats. Her pimp, Papa Fred then took her to hotels in Calamba and Laguna where apparently minors can be brought into the hotel rooms by adult males or by human traffickers with impunity.
Later Winnie told the Preda Foundation social workers; “Papa Fred brought me to the paying customers who took me into the hotels, I was afraid Papa Fred would hurt me or my sisters if I refused or ran away. Papa Fred always stood guard somewhere outside while each one raped me inside the rooms. They made me feel like I was just a toy doll, it always hurt but I endured it, I felt I was nothing.”
Winnie’s Aunt Vilma heard about the big money being earned from the human trafficking of Winnie and she allegedly decided to get a slice of the money. When “Papa Fred” would not pay her a cut she reported it to the social worker of Calamba and filed a case against him.
The municipal social worker took Winnie immediately into temporary care in a local shelter. She was traumatized and in emotional shock after the repeated sexual abuse. The local government had not given any funding for vital services. therapy, counseling or emotional support to help the victims of abuse and human trafficking.
The trafficker “Papa Fred” was jailed while the case went to court then he began to pay the aunt. When Winnie was brought to the courtroom to testify her auntie was waiting to scold her and ordered her to sign an affidavit of desistance and withdraw her complaint. She refused and was further traumatized by this and was deeply disturbed. She broke down and cried in the witness stand when asked to describe her ordeal and she could not testify. Her aunt was throwing her angry looks all the while. Forcing the children to withdraw is a favorite legal tactic used by the abusers to escape justice. The case was about to fail.
Then the concerned municipal social worker Eriberta Alverez asked the Preda Foundation to help and to give Winnie protection, shelter and therapy. Winnie was welcomed at the Preda Foundation home for children. At first she was timid, shy and nervous in the new surroundings. She was quite and withdrawn and could not relate well with the other children. As with all abused children their trust in adults is mostly zero. That lasted only for a few days.
With encouragement from the other children and staff and a friendly happy family environment she began to feel she was free at last and was appreciated and respected for the first time in her life. She felt at home and she began play, smile and to trust others.
After some weeks she asked to join sessions of emotional expression therapy. In the padded room with the guiding help of the Preda therapists she cried and shouted and poured out all her hurt, pain, anger and hatred for her abusers and her aunt and began to heal and become whole. She could now freely relate all that happened to her.
Today she is a strong-minded girl of 16 years old and is doing great in her studies and giving strong testimony in the court. Although it is taking a long long time. It is inspiring to see the extent of her recovery.
Help is available for many more abused or trafficked children. The Preda Staff can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by text or call at The ‘hot line for help’ +639175324453.
Act now to get help for trafficked and abused children, we should never turn away; “silence to abuse is complicity,” we could be an accessory to the crime against children if we know it and fail to act to save the victims. For us to be decent moral human beings we must always help. Just make that call.