Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

President urged to fast-track law against child pornography

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines : A Religious voice from inside and outside the Philippines have joined to ask President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to help end abuse of Filipino children by pushing an anti-pornography law through Congress.

Columban Father Shay Cullen, an Irish missioner who has been working to save and heal abused children and exploited women in the Philippines for more than three decades petitioned Arroyo to declare the House Bill No. 684 as “urgent.”

The priest who founded the People's Recovery, Empowerment Development Assistance Foundation (PREDA) in Olongapo City, 80 kilometers northwest of Manila, started in mid-July his campaign to ask Arroyo to “act decisively to protect Filipino children.”

He wrote the president that child pornography damages thousands of children for life.

Children are abused when their images are recorded and then again when these are spread around the world through the Internet or “made available on the streets of the Philippines for all to purchase with impunity,” the priest wrote.

“They are shown to other children as training videos to seduce them into becoming commercially sexually exploited children, and they too are abused and damaged for life.”

Father Cullen told UCA News of one case PREDA dealt with about four years ago.

Twins Irene and Isabel, 15, were sold by their mother to a pimp and brought to Metro Manila. There they were photographed and recorded nude on stage in a nightclub, with the images distributed on DVD .

“A neighbor in Olongapo tipped us off about the identity of the pimp, but we missed them in the club,” Father Cullen recalled.

When Isabel later managed to escape from the club, she went to PREDA to ask for help to rescue her sister from the house in Pasay City, south of Manila, where she was being held. The girl was about to be sent to Japan.

Father Cullen and PREDA’s paralegal officer accompanied the girls’ mother to the house and took the girl.

“We hurried with her (Irene) to our waiting van and sped away before the pimp and police could stop us,” the priest said.

The 2007 Children in Need of Special Protection Study recorded 1,026 cases of sexual abuse in 2006, compared to 374 in 1997. A 2001 study by the Department of Social Welfare and Development revealed more than 1,000 child rape cases in the National Capital Region alone.

House Representative Nikki Prieto-Teodoro of Tarlac, who introduced the anti-pornography bill, told reporters child abuse prevails in the country due to inadequate or obsolete laws.

In response to Father Cullen’s online campaign, the Provincial Superior of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers in Ireland also sent his own letter to Arroyo to push Congress to approve the proposed anti-child pornography law.

Father Patrick Costello sent the letter to Arroyo later in July with an emailed copy to Father Cullen.

He wrote the president that he feels a special closeness with Filipinos who comprise the second largest group of immigrants in Ireland, next to the Poles. Courtesy : UCAN

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