Father Shay Cullen (second from right) joins a protest
Father Shay Cullen
has called on Filipinos to make a stand and fight the trafficking of women and children.
Irish Father Cullen, who has been nominated twice for the Nobel Prize
for his campaign to protect the rights of Filipinos, especially women and children, led a protest action rally on Thursday against a town mayor who was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl.
Mayor Jose Rodriguez
of San Marcelino town in the central Luzon province of Zambales pleaded not guilty to the charge. He posted a bail of 180,000 pesos (US$4,186) in December for his temporary liberty.
The mayor also filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the trafficking case, which was also filed by Charisse (not her real name). The case is non-bailable and carries the penalty of life imprisonment.
Father Cullen said Filipinos must unite to fight for the dignity of women and children, and to change old perceptions about prostitution.
“This is about the whole attitude of society that says gratuitous sex with women and children is OK. We stand against that,” said Father Cullen whose group, the People’s Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance Foundation (PREDA), asked the government to put Rodriguez under preventive suspension.
“This is to prevent him from influencing the cases. It’s also delicadeza (courtesy) for any accused who is sitting in a public office to resign, or at least be suspended while the case is still being heard,” said Alex Hermoso, PREDA co-founder.
The mayor refused to give any statement to the media. His lawyers, however, said they will ask the court to conduct marathon hearings for the swift resolution of the cases. They maintain the mayor is innocent of the charges.
Charisse’s camp, meanwhile, said it is confident that “justice will prevail.”
“We are positive on these cases,” said Gene Eclarino, head of the Olongapo City Social Welfare and Development which is taking care of Charisse at safe house where she is having her psycho-therapy sessions.
Filipino priest campaigns against child trafficking
Plan proposes means to stop people-trafficking
Church-run shelter gives hope to single mothers