Authorities in Manila round up street children and leave them in government facilities where they often are not given proper attention. (Photo by Eloisa Lopez)
It was a very happy Christmas and New Year for the 70 children who found a new life in Preda's home for children in the Philippine province of Zambales.
The boys, aged nine to 15, were rescued from terrible jail-like conditions. The girls were rescued from rapists and sleazy bars; some were victims of human trafficking and sex slavery. Others were rescued from abusive parents.
To be rescued and be brought to a place in the countryside surrounded by nature was a great joy for the children.
The first thing a child experiences in the children's home is freedom, respect, and a feeling that he or she belongs to a family.
It is the community spirit of affirmation, support, encouragement, respect, and dignity that the children love. In Preda they are taught their rights and receive therapy and education.
They learn that the abuse done to them is a heinous crime that it is always wrong, and they, the children, are not to blame.
Marianne, who cannot hear or speak, was abducted and trafficked by a woman who offered the child food outside a grocery store in a nearby town. The girl was later introduced to two men who took her to a hotel where she was raped.
Marianne's sister traced her and called the police. The rapists were arrested and Marianne was rescued. Her siblings brought her home and shaved off her hair as a punishment, as if she was responsible for her own abduction.
Marianne's grandmother got help from social workers who brought her to Preda. It was a difficult case, but the therapists and social workers strived to help Marianne.
For reasons unknown, the police chief of Castellijos town in Zambales allowed the alleged rapists to walk free without filing charges, which is not an uncommon occurrence in this part of the world. By the time Preda filed charges, the suspects were long gone.
Marianna was reintegrated to the loving care of her grandmother and is still part of Preda's outreach care program.
At least half the population in the Philippines consider themselves as poor according to a national survey. (Photo by Eloisa Lopez)
Many poor Filipino children on the streets and in jails continue to suffer rejection, physical and verbal abuse, and worst of all, sexual abuse. Many have been driven from their homes into the streets where they become victims of human traffickers and sold to pedophiles in bars and brothels.
Poverty is a big factor in this neglect of children who are often subjected to abusive language in their own homes.
More than 50 percent of the 100 million Philippine population consider themselves poor, according to a survey by pollster Social Weather Stations. The survey conducted during the first week of December 2015 shows that some 11.2 million Filipino families or about 60 million people remained poor in the last quarter of 2015.
While Filipinos are known to be kind, loving, and protective of their children, there are some who suffered abuse in their youth who repeat the cycle of violence in their own homes. They don't know how to give love because they never received any.
How parents live, behave, and care for their family has a huge impact on children. If children see and feel the concern of parents, they know that they are loved and will in turn grow up with strong values.
Unfortunately, many children in child detention centers around the country are illegally detained.
What is needed in the Philippines, and in many parts of Asia, are laws that will give back the responsibility and care of abused and neglected children to the central government, not to local politicians. International pressure on national governments to force local authorities to respect the convention of the rights of the child is necessary.
For children to be physically, sexually, and psychologically abused inside these local government facilities is a serious crime.
But who can bring charges against officials who have been reported to have physically, sexually, and psychologically abused children inside these facilities? It is a heinous crime but nobody has been brave enough to file a complaint.
All of us have to raise our voices, we have to protest and challenge national governments to change the situation and allow the children to have a new lease of life and end their suffering this New Year.
Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.
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