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Shining a light on pedophilia in the Philippines

Recent arrests mark progress, but more is needed

Shining a light on pedophilia in the Philippines

Picture: Shutterstock

Fr Shay Cullen, Olongapo City

August 1, 2014

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The good news is that hundreds if not thousands of children will now be safe from abuse and molestation after some 660 British subjects were arrested in the United Kingdom for accessing images of children on the internet a few weeks ago. Many more suspects who have been identified could be arrested soon.

The depressing news is that many of the images discovered online were of very young Filipino children.

Recently, five children between the ages of five and seven years old, and one six-month-old baby, were found in the house of a British woman in Subic, Philippines. The children bear signs of sexual abuse. 

A seven-year old boy said he was sexually molested and photographed naked by a male visitor. A six-year old girl was found tied to a chair in a filthy room strewn with empty liquor bottles.

The images of these abused children were probably shared with pedophiles in the UK and other parts of the world. Perhaps some of the 660 British men who were arrested in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have already viewed the images.

The British woman is now in the custody of the Philippines police. Identified as coming from Scotland, Lilian May Thomson Zimmer, 65, holds a US passport.  She has been charged with direct assault on persons in authority, serious illegal detention and child cruelty. More charges may follow.

The children were rescued after a month-long campaign by the Preda Foundation to persuade authorities to save the children. The children are now safe in a government child care center, are recovering from their ordeal and are talking about it.

There is a growing number of arrests in the Philippines of people making illegal images of children, and using children for live cybersex shows over the internet. Most customers of this criminal activity are from the UK and other parts of Europe. They satisfy their depraved desires and get away with it because of lax law enforcement, bribery, and the non-compliance of Internet Server Providers (ISPs) with the law.

The Philippines passed a law in 2009 that requires the installation of filters and softwares on servers of ISPs, but it remains unimplemented. Telecommunication companies and the government's National Telecommunication Commission are in some kind of collaboration. They seem to be in a criminal conspiracy to subvert the law.

If implemented, the law can at least protect thousands of children from abuse. But the government has failed to act, and has failed the Filipino children, a worse crime it would seem than politicians stealing billions of pesos from the people. 

The failure to implement the law has become a grave injustice to the Filipino people and the children. It has also become a stark reminder how rich corporations manipulate government agencies and officials to continue to earn huge profits from the transmission of illegal images of children. 

ISPs claim innocence, saying that they are not responsible for the images that pass through their servers. But the law states otherwise. What greater evil is there for such images to circulate among child abusers, instigating them to commit more abuse?

This evil trade and the complicity of government agencies and corporations by not stopping the crime is a gross violation of children's rights. Such neglect and dereliction of duty is a crime itself.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino, who claims to be an "anti-corruption" president, might not have heard about the rape of Filipino children. But for him to act now it is not yet too late. It would be a great service to the children. 

We can all help by writing to President Aquino, reminding him of his obligation to the future of his country. Lighting a candle in the dark might enlighten the minds and hearts of people who live in the president's palace.

Fr Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary priest. He established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and promote the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

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