Seeking Justice for the Abused

December 27, 2012

Perhaps the greatest social problem facing the administration of Philippine President Noynoy Aquino is the unrelenting violence toward and sexual abuse of women and children. The Philippine Center for Women’s Resources has published a study that covers a decade and reports that 76.5% of rape victims are children. Every hour, it says, a woman or her child is beaten. Every two hours a woman or a child is raped. Every five hours a woman or child is sexually harassed. There are many thousands of rape victims and most go unreported out of shame, fear of intimidation and impunity afforded to the rapist by an influential protector. Most rape crimes are committed by persons in authority and have ascendency over their victims. As such they are seldom charged, and rarely convicted. The victims can’t report it for shame, fear of retaliation or they will not be believed.

In the Philippines there are hundreds of thousands of poor girls who are victims of human trafficking. There are 37 Philippine laws that supposedly protect women and children, but they are mostly ignored. Corrupt prosecutors, judges male and female, also contribute to the abuse, suffering and violence against women and children by taking bribes and routinely dismissing criminal cases despite overwhelming evidence.

Last October New Zealander and British citizen David William Wakefield, 50, was arrested and charged with non-bailable child trafficking sexual abuse and statutory rape of two small girls aged 12 and 13 from Kidapawan City, Davao. He was able to go free after a meeting was arranged by Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco between his lawyer and the victims and their parents despite the alleged crime being un-bailable. Thanks to the fast action of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima a “Lookout Bulletin” was issued, and he was arrested at a Manila airport trying to escape. Will he ever be convicted?

Columban Fr. Shay Cullen lives and works in the Philippines.