LADY Justice is pictured blindfolded holding a scales and a sword. That needs to be changed. She needs to be seen as a clear-eyed loving mother protecting children.
Maria, 10, was raped by the live-in partner of her mother. With the help of good neighbors and the government social workers, a case was filed against the suspected rapist in October 2011 in San Fernando, Pampanga, close to Angeles City, cyber-sex and sex-slavery capital of the Philippines, according some child rights advocates.
Maria has recovered from the trauma of the rape with the help of therapists at the Preda Foundation’s therapeutic center and children’s home in Olongapo City. She was reintegrated with her caring grandmother. But she can never go home to her mother because the court case against the abuser is taking so long and he is still there waiting for her and probably raping other children.
The case has been in the Regional Trial Court of Pampanga for the past five years and no end is in sight. I appeal to judges to prioritize a speedy trial for child abuse victims.
Maria is just one of thousands of child rape victims. In “The Raid,” a documentary by ABC television New York on YouTube, children as young as fourteen are shown for sale in sleazy sex bars run by foreigners.
One 14-year-old is offered for sale to the camera crew by her auntie on a street corner of Angeles City. “Better you foreigners take her cherry (virginity) than others,” she said, meaning they pay higher than Filipino pedophiles.
There are likely to be many thousands like her. They are powerless to complain and unable to report sexual abuse out of fear and threats. One child in every four children worldwide is a victim of sexual abuse according to experts.
Last week, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) rescued three children, aged 5 to 8 in Pampanga and Bulacan provinces where they were sexually abused by their grandmother and two aunties in a cyber-sex den. They were showing them naked and eating “feces” to foreigners over the Internet for money. They also invite the foreign pedophiles to visit and abuse the kids in person, according to NBI Anti-Human Trafficking Division Chief Eric Nuqui.
A study by the Virtual Global Task Force places the Philippines among the worst offenders regarding crimes of child cyber-pornography.
The justice system is at fault. While there are mostly honest and good judges, many are not. Court cases can take eight years or longer. Corruption and payoffs deny the victims justice and send a message that Philippine justice is for sale. Child sex abusers go scot free to abuse children all the more. We need dedicated lawyers to work for justice, not just for the money.
But who can you trust? One complainant looking for justice said, “You pay your lawyer P50,000 and the other side bribes him or her for P100,000 and he earns P150,000 and you lose.”
How often have I heard young idealistic law students swearing to be the best lawyers ever and fight for justice for the poor and oppressed but soon they fall victim to the corrupt system. In my forty-six years working for justice for the poor, only two lawyers gave help pro bono.
At the Preda Center for abused children, we do our lawyering with a paralegal, a volunteer international law student and good prosecutors backed by the Assistant Secretary.of Justice, Geronimo Sy.
Philippine law students are invited to volunteer. Professors should encourage their students and give them grades for volunteer legal work. We will show them how to do it.
What we need in the Philippines are retired international volunteer lawyers and judges to sit in the Family Courts to monitor and advise and publish reports on child abuse and human trafficking cases. It will stop the corruption.
A prosecutor who rarely prosecutes can say “ Why prosecute? It is easier to just dismiss the complaint for lack of sufficient evidence. Besides, why make an enemy by prosecuting the abuser, better to get paid for doing nothing.”
A judge in Olongapo has been suspended by the Supreme Court for incompetence, dereliction of duty and dismissing child rape cases despite overwhelming evidence of guilt.
A female judge in Iba, Zambales told a child victim she accepted her (forced to sign) affidavit of desistance withdrawing the complaint because the abuser agreed not to do it again. So the accused rapist admitted his crime, promised to repent and walked free. Is that justice?
It is seemingly a pedophile-friendly court. The Supreme Court administrator has yet to act against such a judge.
Ten-year-old Jessica was a victim of human trafficking, was brutally raped. A case was filed against the abuser at the branch 5 Dinalupihan, Bataan in 2011 but justice is so slow because of the endless postponements. No justice is in sight.
Jessica too was healed at the Preda Home for trafficked and abused children and returned to a caring family but justice is a healing process and she has not received that.
Retired lawyers can volunteer and do great work for justice. Law students can volunteer at www.preda.org and learn to do legal battle in the courtroom before they graduate. Then they will know what the future is like. Good people must advocate for an end to human trafficking, cyber-sex abuse and demand justice .It is everyone’s right.