A Nepali youth who married at 16 but now mentors young girls on the importance of education, shows her husband's picture on her mobile at her village home, some 520 kilometers west of Kathmandu, in this file photo from Sept. 12, 2019. Many Asian women are married off as children even though the practice of child marriage was banned by many countries decades ago. (Photo: AFP)
The horrific crime of child sexual abuse is a shockingly common practice almost everywhere in the world. It was and is tolerated but seldom talked about other than as jokes and snide comments alluding to the practice by suspected pedophiles, or when a court conviction is reported.
Child sex tourists are still coming to the Philippines to abuse our children. Few are ever convicted and their crimes are increasing.
The online sexual abuse by relatives of small children has made the Philippines the shameless hub of such child abuse monitored by international police agencies.
The foreigners abuse online and then come to abuse Filipino children in person like what Irish media producer Kieran Creaven did. He came to physically abuse the children he paid to abuse online. He was arrested in the UK when caught soliciting a child there for sex abuse.
US national Donald A. Stenson, 67, was jailed recently for 10 years in the United States. He had been coming to the Philippines since 2007 to sexually abuse children as young as 11 to 17 and videoed himself doing it until 2019.
His friend, John Burgdorff, 66, came with him and together they abused more children. He was jailed in November 2022 in the US for two and a half years for abusing children in the Philippines.
"Strong-minded, dedicated Filipino prosecutors are resisting pressure"
A tip-off by CyberTipline to the US government’s Project Safe Childhood led to their arrest.
Philippine government officials must implement Republic Act 11930 or the Anti-online Sexual Abuse Law. It mandates that telecommunication corporations install blocking and detecting software on their servers to catch criminals. But they have not done this effectively ever. They just monitor websites with information from UK-based Internet Watch. Seemingly they don’t care.
There is only a small Philippine anti-cyber sex investigation police unit for the online investigation. They are almost totally overwhelmed by the task of detecting and finding the abusers. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has to offer larger rewards for genuine information and catch the abusers and rescue the victims.
Strong-minded, dedicated Filipino prosecutors are resisting pressure and sent an accused pedophile priest to jail recently, for the first time in Philippine history, some believe.
Catholic priest Father Karole Reward Ubina Israel is on remand awaiting trial for multiple acts of child rape, sexual assault and videotaping the abuse. He is a cousin of the father of the victim.
Israel was arrested by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Agent Attorney Jonimar Tongdo. It is the first time a priest is likely to be convicted. He admitted the acts of abuse but says they were consensual. He was also blackmailing the child with the videos so that likely negates his defense. May justice be done and may many more victims come forward and seek justice.
Some relatives who abuse their children online for money say it’s just harmless play because there is no touching of the child victims by the pedophiles online. But just ask the abused victims to tell their story as in this video broadcast in the EU recently.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has called for new laws protecting children and punishing child sex abuses.
"The practice of sex with children has been institutionalized in some indigenous communities"
Many countries have passed child protection laws and in the Philippines, 37 are on the statute books. They are implemented by just judges and the children at the Preda Foundation home for abused children win an average of 18 convictions annually. In 2022, it won 21 convictions. That is due to the powerful healing and empowering effect of Emotional Release Therapy.
Most of the 80 children in Preda’s care and protection are abused by a relative, such as a mother or the biological father, grandfather, or live-in partner of the mother. These are followed by pedophiles and traffickers.
The practice of sex with children has been institutionalized in some indigenous communities. Among the Aetas, a chieftain can have multiple “wives,” many of them children as revealed by the Aeta teachers that exposed the practice by a chieftain and rescued a young child, Weng-Weng.
She was found “married” at 14 by Preda social and development workers that visit the villages implementing projects to help the Aeta indigenous people to better their lives.
Weng-Weng was given away like a piece of property to a 27-year-old for two piglets and half a cavan, or 25 kilos of rice. That was one of many deals made by families in remote indigenous villages in Zambales over the years, we are told by social workers.
Weng-Weng was pregnant, a child having a child, but ignored by the authorities. She was rescued, taken into care, had her baby, and started studying. That is her life-long dream.
The Republic Act No. 11596, banning every arrangement called “child marriage,” became law in December 2022.
"In the United States, laws still allow men to have sex with children lawfully"
“The issue of child early and forced marriages is ... a tragic reality for scores of young girls who are forced ... to shelve their own dreams, begin families they are not ready for, and raise children even if their own childhoods have not yet ended,” said Senator Risa Hontiveros, the bill’s author and sponsor, after the vote.
The arrangement of so-called “child marriage” was in fact legalized pedophilia and human trafficking. The government and society and the Church have silently condoned this practice for centuries.
In the Philippines, the age of consent for sexual intercourse was 12 until 2022. The law was changed by the persistent lobbying of child rights groups.
In the United States, laws still allow men to have sex with children lawfully. In 40 states, a marriage with a minor is allowed provided there is parental or judicial consent and approval. So enough money can buy a “child bride.”
In this regard, the Philippines is now a more advanced nation but only since 2022.
May we unite to give children a life free from abuse and exploitation and with freedom and education, justice, and happiness.
*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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