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Father Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary who has worked in the Philippines since 1969. In 1974, he founded the Preda Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and children and campaigning for freedom from sex slavery and human trafficking.

Pedophiles abuse children while judicial system sleeps

Pedophiles abuse children while judicial system sleeps

Image: Pixabay

Published: October 29, 2021 10:50 AM GMT
The notoriously slow pace of decision making in the Philippine legal system allows child abusers to remain free on bail

The recent decision of the Department of Education (DepEd) to dismiss for grave misconduct Franco N. Aranas, a teacher at New Cabalan High School in Olongapo City, should have been a swift decision to protect children and see justice done.

However, it took almost three years before the decision was made to dismiss a teacher who sexually abused his students. Yet Aranas, while found guilty of grave misconduct by the DepEd's regional director, May B. Eclar, can continue teaching in the same school until his dismissal from service is confirmed by DepEd secretary Leonor Briones.

We earnestly hope that Briones acts speedily to confirm the decision of the regional director to protect children and see justice is done. The DepEd must not harbor a child abuser among its ranks.

What is wrong with the system when it is clear that justice delayed is justice denied in a system that favors the sex abusers and ignores traumatized children? It casts a dark shadow over the institutions. The teacher was accused of sexually abusing three minor students, one aged 14 and two 15, at the Sunshine Lodge near the Victory Liner station in Olongapo City on two separate occasions in June and August 2018. This place ought be investigated for enabling human trafficking and child abuse.

It appears the grooming and abuse of victims was ignored by the school due to apathy and indifference. It is easy to report abuse. One brave teacher informed Preda Foundation by anonymously posting a tip-off on Preda’s Facebook page.

Preda social workers acted at once to help protect the victims and start formal criminal and administrative complaints against the accused. But bureaucracy and institutional go-slow attitudes that favor the accused and not the victims were operational.

The notoriously slow, ponderous pace of decision making in the Court of Appeal allows convicted pedophiles like Corskie San Jose to remain free on bail

It has taken almost three years of constant follow-ups by Preda staff and many hearings and presentations of testimony by traumatized victims to convict Aranas in the administrative case filed by Emmanuel C. Drewery, the executive director and senior social worker of the Preda Foundation, a child protection and healing organization in Olongapo City. He is still on trial for the criminal cases in Olongapo City Regional Trial Court. 

During the formal investigation by the DepEd, Aranas denied all the charges against him and presented an alibi which was said by the panel hearing the case to be faulty and did not preclude the sexual acts happening. The teacher also said in his defense that the acts were consensual. This was denied since he was in a position of ascendancy and power over his students.

Another case involving a teacher, Corskie San Jose, happened at Olongapo City National High School in 2017. He sexually groomed children and was ignored for years by co-teachers and supervisors. Then he sexually assaulted an 11-year old male student under the stairs in the school. The shocked parents of the boy brought criminal and administrative cases against San Jose for child sexual abuse. That same year he also sexually assaulted another 15-year old boy outside the school.

After two years of hearings marked by frequent delays and postponements, the DepEd gave San Jose a six-month suspension. He is back teaching. DepEd Olongapo City recently denied his attempt to win promotion.

The criminal cases against San Jose progressed in the Regional Trial Court. He was convicted in 2019 and sentenced to a minimum eight years in one case and a minimum of 12 years in the other. He was also ordered to pay the victims moral and exemplary damages. However, he is out on bail. He appealed and that is still pending in the notoriously slow and seemingly inactive Court of Appeal. What takes about two hours takes two years. What are they waiting for?

The notoriously slow, ponderous pace of decision making in the Court of Appeal allows convicted pedophiles like Corskie San Jose to remain free on bail. The court must realize that convicted pedophiles on bail can continue to abuse and commit more crimes against children. We must complain to the Supreme Court about the lack of action to decide these heinous crimes against children pending in the Court of Appeal. It appears that the justices just don’t care and are waiting for something else.

The Church in many dioceses keeps abuse secret and reassigns abusive clerics. Concern for the victims is far from their feelings and thoughts

The greatest enemy of children is the indifference and passive support of the public for pedophiles and pimps who prey on children and sexually abuse them. They give consent to child abuse by their silence, apathy and indifference. These people are accessories and enablers of crimes against children. They wrongly believe it is not their business to report or interfere, but it is the urgent business of everybody.

The first reaction of schools and Catholic institutions is to cover up such crimes. The Church in many dioceses keeps abuse secret and reassigns abusive clerics. Concern for the victims is far from their feelings and thoughts.

The reputation of the institution comes first for these irresponsible clerics and teachers, not the protection of the child victims or the implementation of the law so that justice will be enforced and abuse will be challenged and punished. It was only when Francis Bermido, president of the Preda Foundation, reported the cases that there was media attention. Child abuse of students is just the tip of the iceberg, hidden beneath the waters of cold apathy.

Institutional leaders, bishops, priests, teachers, the public, judges, prosecutors and police must be challenged for having negative attitudes toward victims. There has to be deeper concern, respect for children and the law, and swift action to protect and bring the perpetrators to justice. Anything less is a mockery of the law and human rights as the Philippines ceases to be a respected civilized country.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia