Filipino women and children take part in a dance exercise to draw attention to sexual abuse of women and children as part of the One Billion Rising campaign in suburban Manila on Feb. 6, 2016. (Photo: AFP)
World Children's Day on Nov. 20 is a day of celebration. A day when every happy family can rejoice that their children are healthy, happy and secure in a loving family.
We can say that the respect and rights of children have never been held so high. Never in world history have there been so many defenders and activists protecting children and promoting their welfare. Never have there been so many laws advancing their well-being, their education, their health. Nowadays, children have never been loved as much.
All this attention to the welfare of children is new in our generation. In generations past, children had low status in society. Even though most parents loved their children, few if any laws protected them. Child abuse and child labor were everywhere, while sexual abuse of children was common and hardly even considered a crime.
There were few champions for children. Charles Dickens and Don Bosco are among the few that wrote and acted to help children in dire circumstances. After World War II, the suffering and abuse of children was widespread.
People of conscience and moral principles rediscovered the teaching and respect that Jesus of Nazareth had for children. He was perhaps the first champion and defender of children.
He stood a child before a crowd of scribes, Pharisees and elders who considered themselves the elites and rulers of society. He said this child is the most important of all, whoever welcomes a child, welcomes me. That identification of Jesus with a child recognized the profound dignity and higher status of a child than anyone else. It was earth-shaking; Jesus of Nazareth made a lot of enemies that day.
This is what we must celebrate, a historical awakening and realization of the plight of abused and exploited children in the world
His teaching was ignored for the better part of 2,000 years until the defenders of children’s rights won the day at the United Nations and proclaimed a comprehensive convention that enshrined the exalted rights of the child to the whole world.
This writer was there in Helsinki as a delegate from the Philippines when the convention was being finalized in debates and resolutions and the final draft was written. It was passed by the General Assembly the following year, 1989.
This is what we must celebrate, a historical awakening and realization of the plight of abused and exploited children in the world. This awakening must continue since the danger of child abuse is getting worse with the impact of the internet and the unethical internet service providers and corrupt people abusing children.
This was not enough because there was still much child abuse and countries passed weak laws that were not implemented and failed to protect children. A further awakening as to the worst kinds of child labor in the world was needed.
Finally, the human race admitted to its most terrible crimes against children in the sex industry, construction, factory and agriculture where education and dignity were taken away from children and they were like slaves.
Another worldwide campaign brought about the convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor. This was passed in Geneva on June 17, 1999.
This writer was present in Geneva to campaign for it and to see it voted and passed. There were marches and demonstrations around the world. The people were awakening; voices were speaking out demanding change, protection and freedom from a life of child enslavement. They called for a child’s right to be educated.
More national laws were passed to stop such enslavement. Children were to be educated with dignity and protected against exploitation. These laws are being improved and updated as the extent of child abuse is constantly being uncovered as pedophiles find new insidious ways to abuse children.
Two new Philippine laws have passed both houses recently and will so hopefully be signed into law. One is increasing the age of consent. When it is passed, any act of abuse against a child aged 16 and younger will be statutory rape. The second new law is banning so-called child brides. Any arranged relationship between a child and an older man is illegal and the offender will be jailed for many years.
A team of professional therapists and social workers at Preda therapeutic homes heal and empower the child victims and help them get justice against their abusers
Recently, child abusers found a new way to victimize children. They were hired by a child rescue non-government organization called Destiny Rescue. The Preda Foundation, a child protection organization represented by its executive director Emmanuel Drewery, in support of two sexually abused child victims, one 13 years old, filed a formal legal complaint with the Olongapo City prosecutor. The complaint alleged that several children were sexually abused by hired undercover agents of the charity.
The agents contact traffickers and poise as sex customers and when the traffickers bring the children to them to have a sex party, the undercover agents with an undercover policeman give them marked money. When the human traffickers accept the money, they are immediately arrested and the children are rescued.
When several rescued children were brought to the Preda Foundation by the Olongapo City social worker for care and protection, they revealed that before the rescue, Destiny Rescue agents brought them to hotels and sexually abused them while their traffickers stood outside the bedroom door.
We contacted the country head of Destiny Rescue to ask for help to identify the agents. They did not cooperate. The US-based parent organization also failed to reply to our requests for help.
Olongapo City NBI Chief Attorney Orlando Navallo is investigating and has assured us that the suspects will be found and identified. The prosecutor has yet to make a resolution on the complaint. The affidavits can be found here.
Francis Bermido Jr, president of the Preda Foundation, has appealed to Destiny Rescue to cooperate and identify the suspects and bring them to justice. The child victims are determined to get justice.
Anyone can refer a child for care and recovery from trafficking or sexual abuse by contacting Preda at [email protected] A team of professional therapists and social workers at Preda therapeutic homes heal and empower the child victims and help them get justice against their abusers.
On average, the Preda children win 18 convictions against their abusers and traffickers every year. It is hoped that the suspects in the abuse case will be identified soon and be brought to justice.
* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.
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