It is a happy day when I can write about victories and convictions. Prosecutors are fighting hard for child rights and are winning important convictions. Judges, too, believe the testimonies of children with horrifying account of multiple rape and sexual assault by biological fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, and Catholic priests. These are great victories for those who hunger or thirst for justice and have had their fill.
The children endure, survive, and find the courage to overcome the fear of rejection, anger, and hatred of their abusers and their families when they point a finger and say to the court and the world, “He raped me.” That’s a powerful courageous allegation to make and why would they if it were not true? The wise experienced judges of family courts know and accept these truths.
The amazing survival stories and court cases with dedicated prosecutors and good judges give victory to raped and abused children. Areza (not her real name) is one of them. When she was eight years old, Areza would play with a rag-doll doll that she called her sister because she had no family. Her father had died years ago and, abandoned by her mother, Areza was left with her two uncles. The younger Kharlo Rondolo, 27, began to rape Areza continually and frightened her into silence until she was 14. At 13, her other uncle started to rape her also.
When she was 14, something changed in Areza. The emotional and mental paralysis ended and she told her cousin in Subic. They went to a social worker of the town of Subic who sent Areza to an aunt in Castillejos who failed to help Areza bring formal complaints against her uncles. There, Areza found the social worker in Castillejos and told her ordeal. She was referred to the Preda home for abused children in Sakatihan, Subic.
At the Preda home for abused children, she found the peace and protection and the freedom to tell all that happened to her. She joined the Emotional Release Therapy sessions in the padded therapy room with other girls and poured out her hurt and pain and anger. She healed, recovered and was empowered to fight for justice. She filed her complaint with the support of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Bernardine S. Santos and during hearings, Prosecutor Santos presented the evidence strongly and coherently in an intelligent prosecution to the court. Areza testified clearly and directly and passed the strict cross examination. Medical evidence was also presented. The uncle’s only defense was denial.
The long experienced judge, Honorable Judge Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio, summed up the evidence clearly. Interestingly, her decision quoted, “Thus in the case of People Vs. Tulagan, it was pronounced that force, threat or intimidation as an element of rape is substituted by ‘moral ascendency or moral authority.’” The judge found no reasonable doubt whatsoever as to the guilt of the accused uncle and pronounced him guilty. He will spend the rest of his life in prison where he can never abuse more children and repent, do penance, and beg God for mercy and forgiveness. Areza has thrived at Preda and found sweet justice, freedom and closure to that terrible six years of rape and abuse, thanks to the diligent prosecutor, Prosecutor Bernardine Santos, and Judge Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio.
I told you the story last September of Tessie, a similar story as Areza, made a sex slave by her family, abused continually by her father, brother and their drinking buddies. Her sister was also sexually abused. Tessie, after years of sexual abuse told a neighbor, a kind woman, of her suffering. Tessie was referred to the Preda home for protection from perhaps the most evil crime of multiple rape ever.
In Emotional Release Therapy, Tessie was healed and empowered like Areza was. Helped by Prosecutor Bernardine Santos, she bravely filed charges against her abusers. Together, Tessie and Prosecutor Santos won in December 2022 the conviction of her father’s drinking buddy. He was sentenced to life in prison.
On January 23, 2023, she won another victory — the conviction of her father who had raped her many times. Judge Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio summed it up after a long trial. “The court gave credence to the positive declaration of the minor that she was raped by her father than the mere denial of the accused.” Her rapist father was sentenced to life in prison. Tessie’s sister has also filed a formal complaint against her older brother who raped her several times. We await the outcome.
Another victory celebration is due for 15-year-old Jemmi. She won the conviction of Florentino Aldea for sexual assault after a very convincing case strongly fought in the Family Court in Olongapo City by Prosecutor Bernadine Santos. Aldea got bail and has filed an appeal at the Court of Appeals. He and his family could harass Jemmi. She does not feel full freedom while the convicted abuser is free. We appeal to the justices in the honorable Court of Appeals to quickly resolve the cases of child abuse to prevent more abuse, so that justice can be done and clearly seen to be done.
In the past weeks, another important first step for justice for Angelica (not her real name) — allegedly sexually raped and assaulted by Father Karole Reward Ubina Israel when she was 15 — is the resolution of Assistant City Prosecutor Kristine R. Marallag-Ave in Tuguegarao City. The diligent prosecutor resolved a complaint saying there is probable cause that rape was committed 11 times and sexual assault six times by the Catholic priest, 29, assistant parish priest in the parish of St. Vincent Ferrer in Solana, Cagayan. The resolution also states that the priest violated section 4 of the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act otherwise known as RA 9995 when he made videos taping these sexual encounters.
According to Angelica, the priest sent the girl the videos and blackmailed her, threatening to post them online if she told anyone of the abuse and ordered her to submit to his vile lust and crimes. In his affidavit, the priest admitted the sexual encounters but claimed it was consensual sex. yet the prosecutor rejected that claim with forceful legal arguments to the contrary. Republic Act (RA) No.11648, which does not apply in this case since it was signed into law on March 4, 2022, establishes that a minor below 16 cannot give consent to sexual acts by an older person.
Other dedicated prosecutors working with the Preda social workers have recently won convictions for child abuse victims against their abusers. Outstanding is Assistant City Prosecutor Junnie T. Esplana of Angeles City. He won the conviction of the notorious human trafficker, Allyana Isabel Fernandez, who got a life sentence.
Assistant City Prosecutor Ria Nina Sususco in Olongapo City successfully prosecuted and won a conviction of the child-abusing teacher Franco Aranas that raped his student. He is also appealing his conviction.
Another high scorer for winning the conviction of child abusers is Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Nadine Guzman in Bataan. After presenting strong evidence and the testimony of the empowered child from Preda, she won the conviction of a grandfather who raped his granddaughter several times. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Perhaps the most successful of all are Zambales Assistant Provincial Prosecutors Emmanuel Mas Jr. and Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Joe Mari Nacin. They are winning many convictions and getting court orders so child victims are referred for therapy and healing to the Preda Foundation child therapy center.
The successful cooperation between Preda and the Department of Justice prosecutors leads to successful convictions, which are powerful messages of advocacy that child trafficking and sexual abuse bring the severest of penalties to offenders and freedom, vindication and justice for child victims.
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. The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.