By Fr. Shay
The great challenge that the Aquino government has inherited and is trying to confront is the proliferation of sexual violence against children and the shocking trade in human persons in the Philippines.
Most of the trafficking is internal to the Philippines. Thousands of women and children are taken from the remote impoverished rural regions. The job recruiters pay the parents an advance on the promised salary of the child. The recruited children, some as young as 14 years old is bonded labor and controlled by the debt and fear of prosecution by the recruiter and later to the employer. In many cases the job as a domestic worker turns out to be that of forced prostitution.
With the renewed crackdown by the international policing community on trafficking of children, fewer are being trafficked abroad. Instead the sex tourists are being encouraged to come to the Philippines and other countries in South East Asia. One report says that 14 % of the Philippine tourist trade is sex tourism. The failure of the Philippine Internet providers to obey the law and install the software filters to block access to child pornography only encourages the growth of this evil practice and the increase in sexual violence against children by locals and foreigners alike.
But cracking down on this scourge of sexual violence against children is gaining strength and more charges against foreigners are being filed. Those coming here to get young girls under the guise of marriage are being investigated in Butuan City. The men traffickers are coming from Ireland no less, immigration officials are on the look out to arrest them.
The anti-trafficking law needs amending. Lawmakers, some critics claim, wrote the law as if they themselves would benefit from them, it is riddled with loopholes to enable the child sex abusers to escape justice. So instead the accused are being charged under R.A.7610 – the child protection law. They will get a minimum of seven years to life if convicted.
The proposed amendments before the Philippine Senate committee headed by Senator Loren B. Legarda are most urgent. There are few convictions for trafficking of persons and this had landed the Philippines on US State Department â€œWatch Listâ€, of countries that have low compliance with international standards of child protection and anti-trafficking of persons.
Most recently, the dismissal of a trafficking case against a Philippine Mayor because the evidence was only sufficient to prove that he was a customer of the 12 year old child. So a defective charge enabled the judge to dismiss the case of trafficking. He is still charged child sexual abuse under RA 7610.
In another case, Maricel a small diminutive 14 year old girl was sold by her mother to an Australian, Pete the Pedophile here in Olongapo City. He continually sexually abused her in the apartment of Nick, another Australian. The same had happened to Patty the 16 year older sister of Maricel. She did not want her sister to suffer as she was suffering. She called the Preda “Child Watch” hotline. Soon the Preda team had rescued Maricel and brought her to safety and the two Australians were jailed. The Charge against Nick was dismissed but Pete the Pedophile is on trial.
We live in a globalized world where the sexualization of children is taken for granted and women are increasingly seen as sex objects.
Young people are brainwashed into believing that sexuality is pleasure seeking and has little to do with procreation and family life until they get unexpectedly pregnant and many then seek abortions. Sexual exploitation has replaced commitment and has led to huge numbers of divorces, separations, broken homes and abandoned children. Taking a stand and promoting love as dedication is what we need to help young people have a happy family life. Yet outmoded and unfashionable as it may appear love that is grounded in commitment and unselfish care for another without demanding or asking for sexual pleasure as a reward, is the love that brings lasting happiness for a whole lifetime.
Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and online.