News

Wells Fargo Asian Connection Donation


The Wells Fargo Asian Connection Bay Area Chapter recently chose to donate to PIA as its outreach program.
Left to right:
Jeel Plenos Executive Co Chair, Francs Viana PIA board member,
Kat Laxamana, member,
Czarina Good , Executive Chair and
Jackie Smith, Communications Chair

The Wells Fargo Asian connection group hosted a “professional headshot” event where Kat Laxamana shared her photography skills to take professional looking head shots of over 30 Wells Fargo Team Members. It was a very successful event and well received knowing that the proceeds going to a good cause!

This ‘School For Justice’ Trains Sex Trafficking Survivors To Be Lawyers

“I want to fight against child sexual exploitation and help others like me,” one woman said.
By Sarah Ruiz-Grossman

A new program in India is helping survivors of child sex trafficking get justice for others like them ― by pursuing careers in the legal system.

The School for Justice, launched in April by Dutch anti-trafficking group Free a Girl, provides funding and other support to women who have escaped underage sex trafficking, so they can prepare for university and earn bachelor’s degrees in law.

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Actor Ashton Kutcher Speaks Against Human Trafficking


Source: C-SPAN

Actor Ashton Kutcher and Elisa Massimino from Human Rights First testified at a hearing on ways to improve federal support for combating human trafficking and slavery. Mr. Kutcher, co-founder of the anti-human trafficking network Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, talked about his organization’s efforts toward the release of trafficking and slavery victims. He also answered questions on the types of regulations, resources, and future anti-trafficking legislation that could help the government and private sector pressure international counterparts to fight slavery and criminal networks. Senators focused on anti-trafficking legislation they were working on, and asked the witnesses about ways to improve federal support for local- and state-level efforts, and to encourage such efforts abroad.

The Story of Ana and Bobby

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Children at a 2009 anti-child pornography rally (Photo by EPA/Rolex Dela Peña)

Two victims recently rescued from forced labor, child pornography and cyber sex

Ana,13, and Bobby, 11, are siblings (not their real names).  Their mother left because she was being abused by the father. Their father is a drug addict and is constantly looking for money to finance his habit.  So he sold his children to a white, old man who drugged the children.  Ana recounted that a customer raped her in the presence of two other men, and they even took pictures and streamed it live online.  Ana and Bobby stayed in that house for five days.

Ana and Bobby tried to escape, but got caught.  They were placed in separate rooms.  Ana hands were tied.  For five days, the men raped her, watched as she got raped, took pictures and posted the videos online.  On the sixth day, they were returned to their father who received money from these men.  They were sold a second time by the father and the same thing happened to them.  Up to this day, Bobby refuses to talk about what happened to him in that house.

Ana and Bobby are now in a center that PIA supports.  They are helping the authorities file charges against their father and the “white men.”

Rising Child Labor Abuse in the Philippines

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Source: The Diplomat/Shutterstock)

The country has much more work to do to overcome the problem of child labor.

By Mong Palatino

Child labor exploitation is worsening in the Philippines. In 2011, the Philippine National Statistics Office reported that there were 5.5 million working children in the country, 2.9 million of whom were working in hazardous industries such as mines and plantations. The agency added that 900,000 children have stopped schooling in order to work. The following year, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) released a survey that showed that one out of four workers in palm oil plantations in northeast Mindanao region were children below 18 years old.

Last month, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education Research (EILER) published a baseline study which confirmed the prevalence of child labor in mines and plantations in various parts of the country. In plantation communities, about 22.5 percent of households have child workers. In mining towns, child labor incidence was 14 percent. The group noted that the youngest worker interviewed in the study was five years old, although the common age of child workers was 12. The group learned that 76 percent of child laborers have stopped attending school. Most child laborers were working for 10 hours a day, or 13 to 16 hours a day in some extreme cases.

Child laborers in oil palm fields often serve as fruiters, harvesters, haulers, loaders, and uprooters. Meanwhile, child laborers in sugarcane estates work in weeding, harvesting and fetching of water. Banana plantation workers are assigned in bagging and de-leafing duties. Outside banana plantations younger children are involved as banana peelers for rejected bananas which will be dried and processed as animal feeds.

In mines, child laborers usually fetch water, carry sacks of rocks, load thick logs that are used to support the underground tunnels, or become errand boys of regular workers. They are also reserve workers or relievers whenever regular miners cannot come to work.

Girls in mines work in gold panning or provide services to miners such as doing their laundry or cooking meals.

EILER observed that child workers are exposed to extreme weather conditions, long working hours, and harsh environments while using substandard tools and equipment. In plantations, trucks would pick children from their homes and bring them to makeshift tents that are located in nearby provinces to stay and work there from two weeks to one month without their parents. And since most plantations use harmful agro-chemicals, the children are also directly exposed to these threats.

Children in mines are handling dangerous tools and are made to work without personal protective equipment for long hours. They are also vulnerable to social hazards like the use of illegal drugs inside the tunnels to keep them awake for hours.

“The nature of their work which provides very little wages coupled with the fact that they skip school means that child laborers are unable to break from the families’ cycle of poverty, perpetuating the problem of inter-generational poverty among the poor families in the plantation and mining industries,” said Anna Leah Escresa-Colina, executive director of EILER.

She added that low wages, contractualization, and lack of livelihood for families as some of the factors pushing children to work even in hazardous and difficult jobs to augment family incomes.

Ambassador Guy Ledoux of the European Union emphasized that “it is important that dissuasive penalties are imposed in practice on persons who subject children to work in hazardous or exploitative conditions.” The EU provided assistance in conducting the study on child labor in the Philippines.

The EILER study confirmed earlier surveys about the high number of children working in hazardous industries. It also highlighted the failure or inadequacy of government initiatives to address the problem. As the world marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Philippines must be more aggressive in combating the worst forms of child labor in various parts of the country.

Source: The Diplomat

Photos on Child Labor from globalvoicesonline.org

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Child laborers in the plantation (Photo from EILER) 

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Working in the palm fields (Photo from EILER)

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Hands worn from harvesting (Photo from EILER)

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Girls panning for gold (Photo from EILER)

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Working in the mines (Photo from EILER)

Former Street Kid Asks Heartbreaking Question for Pope Francis

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Pope Francis hugs Glyzelle Iris Palomar (Source: AP)

“Bakit po pumapayag ang Diyos na mayroong ganitong nangyayari?” (Why does God allow such a thing to happen?)

This was the question that 12-year-old Glyzelle Iris Palomar asked the Pope when she read her testimony before him at the “Meeting With the Youth” at the University of Santo Tomas (UST).

Palomar, who was rescued from the streets by the Tulay ng Kabataan (TNK) Foundation, wept as she told the Pope about the abadoned children who fall prey to drug syndicates or get forced into prostitution.

Prior to asking her heartbreaking question, Palomar bravely stated before the Pope, “Marami na pong mga batang pinabayaan ng kanilang mga magulang. Marami na po sa kanila ang naging biktima at masama ang nangyari sa kanila…tulad ng droga at prostitusyon.” (Many children were left alone by their parents. Many of them have become victims to bad things, such as drugs and prostitution.)

At this point, Palomar suddenly choked up in tears. She could barely say, “Bakit po kaunti lang an tumutulong sa amin?” (Why are only a few helping us?)

When she and her fellow former street kid Jun Chura, 14, were presented before the Pope, Palomar wept as she hugged the pontiff.

For his part, Chura had also told the Pope about how he was abandoned by his parents and left to fend for himself on the streets. He said there were many kids like him who were forced to do things by criminal elements.

Later on, the Pope said through his interpreter, “Glyzelle is the only one who has put a question to which there is no answer and she wasn’t able to express it in words, only in tears. Why do children suffer so much? When the heart is able to ask itself and cry, then we can understand.”

The Pope added, “Why do children suffer? I invite each one of you to ask yourselves, ‘Have I learned how to weep, how to cry when I see a hungry child, a child on the street who uses drugs, a homeless child, an abandoned child, an abused child, a child that society uses as a slave’?”

The Pope then stated, “If you don’t learn how to cry, you can’t be good Christians,” he emphasized. Let us learn how to weep, as Glyzelle has shown us today. Let us not forget this lesson.”

Source ANC/Yahoo.com

Letter from Tacloban

The following is an update from Association Compassion Asian Youth (ACAY) founder Sister Sophie de Jesus which she sent prior to Typhoon Ruby/Hagupit’s landfall in the Philippines last Dec. 6, 2014. The affected region was in the recovery stage after being hit by Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan last year, and ACAY was providing psychological debriefing for disaster victims, training for volunteer mothers and educational assistance for students. This year, PIA facilitated a funding of $12,563 to support ACAY in its Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan recovery efforts. 

The Multi-Purpose Hall in Barangay Santa Cruz (Photo by Mona Lisa Yuchengco)

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Dear friends,

Greetings from the Philippines!

You have surely been informed of the arrival of a new super typhoon in the Philippines, called Hagupit, especially in the area of Leyte and Samar. These two islands were on the recovery stage after Yolanda last year but a new dramatic experience is unfortunately arising. We are constantly in contact with all of the people in Santa Cruz. Earlier I was talking with one of the youth who are close to us and she told me she feels like a zombie out of fear to experience again the panic and the trauma of last year. Jack is in contact with the barangay captain and is following the evacuation of the village. He just sent me this last message regarding their present situation:

“ACAY Tacloban Mission – News Update

December 5, 2014

“Barangay Sta Cruz looks like a Ghost town” today according to one of our young leaders in the community.  The silence in the community remind them the one during Yolanda time.  Everybody evacuated in different safe areas.  The community started to evacuate yesterday as mandated by the local Disaster Coordinating Council. Only few male adults stay in the community to watch for their properties. They will be staying on the second floor of the barangay hall. They feel safe in this place as it saved them during typhoon Yolanda.

The Multi cab and the pedicab that we offered to them has been maximized to transfer the families in different areas to evacuate.

According to the Barangay Captain they are really looking forward to finish the Multi Purpose building that we started in order for them to be able to use it in this kind of dramatic situations. It will become a place where the Barangay Policemen and barangay officers can stay during time of typhoon. Our Multipurpose hall is ongoing construction. We are  on the concreting of the roof top. This cannot be used because the concreting of rooftop was new.  We hope it will be able to resist the strong winds.

One of the concerns I received two days ago while they are preparing for evacuation is concerning the pigs we offered to 50 families.  We have 47 female pigs in the community. For those who have places far from the seashore, they evacuated the pigs to safe places. The pigs are already big and soon can be pregnant. But for those who do not have areas where to place them, we were informed this afternoon that some are selling them as they don’t know what to do with. I tried to think how to cope with this situation but as we are dealing with emergencies, it seemed to me to let them handle it as they wish to and not to add any burden at this point of time.

The typhoon is expected between 8pm -12midnight on Dec 6.  It will bring a heavy rainfall, a strong wind and possible storm surge up to 5.5 meters.  Since our dear Barangay Sta Cruz is located in the coastal area, they might experience serious destruction of their new properties. It’s so sad that they just started to live in a normal life, starting to build again their houses and their lives.  Now is another challenge that they are facing. Let’s pray for their safety.

I am in contact with them to have news from time to time. The Barangay Captain assured me that there are no children left in the community. She is with them in the evacuation Center.  Jack“

I will update you as soon as I will have news. At this time we do not know exactly if the super typhoon will pass or not in Manila. This morning it was announced then this afternoon it seems we will feel more the rainfall and winds but we might be spared of the center of the typhoon.

Unite with us in prayer….

Sophie de Jesus

Eight Months After Typhoon Haiyan

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Children who were benefitted by PREDA’s relief efforts in Tacloban (Source: www.preda.org)

By Fr. Shay Cullen

In the middle of the rubble and dirt of the aftermath of the most devastating typhoon to hit the Philippines last November 8, 2013, we found children still able to smile, standing as they did with ragged torn T-shirts and dirty faces and legs in the mud. They were covered in the filth and dirt of the typhoon debris where they were poking about looking for something to salvage and sell. That’s the resilience and courage of the Filipino child when all has been taken away.

Everywhere I went assessing the terrible damage, I saw hundreds of families lifting themselves up and overcoming the shock and trauma with almost nothing besides relief food and tents.

I saw the flattened homes and broken coconut trees as far as the eye could see and I wondered how long it would take for these smashed communities to bury their thousands of dead and start life over again. Six regions in the central Philippines were declared disaster zones after the super-typhoon lashed the land with winds up to 230 kilometers an hour.

Today, not much progress has been made by government agencies in helping the poor get a low cost home, jobs or a new start. There are millions of dollars and pounds in foreign aid in the bank accounts, at lease I hope it is still there. With top Senators and lawmakers in jail for massive graft and corruption, I wonder if the aid money has been stolen too.

If it is still intact, it has yet to be poured into meaningful recovery projects. They have sustaining food programmes and temporary shelters but eight months later, not much rebuilding or decent low cost housing has been provided. The relief and humanitarian aid phase is now over, says the social welfare Secretary Corazon Dinky Soliman and the recovery and development stage is starting.

It has taken eight months for this phase to begin. There are more than 3000 people still in tents and thousands more in small, one-roomed plywood bunk houses. The overcrowding there is a humanitarian crises in itself as child abuse is rampant in such conditions with adults of all ages sleeping on the floors with children.

When I went there on several occasions, I met many survivors struggling in the harsh, deprived living conditions of a squatter community crowded into hovels, shacks and shanties made with the debris of wrecked houses. They are getting a good supply of relief food, thanks to the DSWD regional office under social welfare secretary “Dinky” Soliman. But what the people need most after food was relief from their trauma and to be listened to and their tragic stories be heard. They felt alone and abandoned.

Besides, there were numerous reports of children being snatched, lured away by people offering food, clothes for the small, abandoned children and promises of a job for teenagers, mostly targeting the girls. Such disaster zones are the hunting grounds for the sex bar recruiters and youngsters disappear in the chaos. The trafficking of the children happens all too frequently in areas of such devastation.

That’s when I decided to send the the Preda psycho-social and anti-trafficking education and rescue team to Tacloban and Palo. The team set up base in the SOS children’s center, and launched workshops and seminars among the people in the evacuation centers. Later, they moved from school to school and district barangay centers making presentation with the children and parents joining in and telling their stories

It is a great, effective service that is still on-going. As many as twelve thousand people, parents, teachers and children have been reached, inspired and uplifted. They are helped to be aware of their dignity, rights and self-worth and that of their children. The message and experience gives encouragement to them to overcome and not give in to despair but to struggle on in the hope that more help is coming.

The dramatic action songs, group dynamics and puppet shows delight the children and parents alike and gives a strong message of how to prevent child abuse and trafficking and how to report any incident. A yellow card with a hotline number is distributed where they can contact the team for help anytime.

Then we recruited local, unemployed female teachers. All of them had suffered loss of house and relatives in the great ocean wave that rose twenty feet high and engulfed the entire foreshore sweeping away homes, houses and entire families. They survived and are helping other survivors.

Since the schools had been leveled, there was no new jobs for teacher graduates, so we employed and trained them to make the psycho-social presentations. Soon they were skilled in presenting the dynamic workshops with great flare and skill and do so until this day. Six of them have taken over the work and carried it on with the supervision of a senior Preda staff.

It is estimated that hundreds of children were saved from the traffickers. Dozens of children were intercepted by ordinary civilians who were now child protectors. They reportedly intervened when they saw children being led away by suspicious adults. Six children already loaded on to a mini-bus were saved in this way.

The orphans were also very vulnerable, other charities were active in saving them and giving them a good home but many more half-orphans who had lost one parent were in dire need. That’s where the Preda team was able to intervene and today, 88 of these half-orphaned children have been located, visited and given aid and continuous educational assistance. They previously had nothing to wear or bring to school. So with new uniforms, shoes, school bags, notebooks, pens and pencils and daily pocket money, they happily attend school proudly and courageously.

This is just a small contribution but made possible by the generosity of the supporters of the Preda relief projects. The work still goes on. We have now planned and begun the construction of a new four-roomed school building in San Joaquin High School, Palo, Leyte. The place was hit hard and the school roof was snatched away and the walls crumbled. Now this new school house will give hundreds of children a real chance of an education, the great tool to overcome dire poverty and enable them to make a better life for themselves.

First published in www.preda.org, July 18, 2014

Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line. Fr. Shay can be reached at [email protected].

PIA provided a grant $7,000 for PREDA’s Conduct of Child Protection Seminars and Psychosocial Therapeutic Sessions for affected children.

The Internet and Orphanage – Scenes of Child Abuse

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Confiscated computers used by cybersex operators (Source: ice.gov)

By Fr. Shay Cullen

Two major child abuse stories broke last week. The exposé of the deviant criminal behavior of pedophiles in the UK, America, and Australia and the Philippines who are sexually exploiting Filipino children through the internet, has been revealed in a BBC report which staff of the Preda Foundation in Olongapo city help them make.

In Lucena City, an orphanage, Sankey Samaritan Mission for poor children and youth was raided by the NBI and an American, Tom Randall and orphanage manager Toto Luchavez and his son, Jake Luchavez, were arrested and are charged with trafficking and child abuse based on strong testimony of some of the 31 victims.

The web-cam internet investigation, carried out by Tony Smith and Angus Crawford of the BBC shows that these pedophiles not only have thousands (one had 4 million) indecent images of children on their computer hard drives but pay gangs in the Philippines to get children to perform sexual acts online for them to watch. They traveled around the Philippines interviewing police, victims and social workers helping the children. Their next report will be to investigate the companies that allow this to happen and enable and abet the crimes against children through the internet.

The report that caused international reaction showed that even some relatives and parents of the children allowed them to be trained to perform so as to earn money. The report showed cyber-dens in Cebu city slums where poor children are the most exploited. Some people think that such acts before a computer-connected camera will do no harm as the customer is far away but one child victim said that it makes them loose their dignity, innocence and purity. In other child web cam crimes, the children are not alone and sex acts between young boys and girls are ordered up.

The children are persuaded that it is just play and fun, but this is severely damaging to children. Besides, the criminals doing this use the web-cam sessions to make child pornography which they transmit across the internet for money to pedophile who will pay for it.

It is clear also that web-cam crime against children is a warm up for sexual assault. The pedophiles soon get so aroused, they will abuse children in their own locality. This is not an evil done far away against Filipino children only but it is putting the children, where the pedophile is residing at greater risk. It is estimated that thousands of children are abused in this way.

Philippine police blame the Internet Server Corporations and cell phone companies for flouting the anti-child pornography law which mandates filtering of child pornography and any sexual images of children or illegal content passing through their servers. Republic Act 9775,under Section 9, says “The duties of Internet Server Providers (ISP) to monitor the content passing through their servers, notify the police of illegal content and provide the authorities the particulars of users who gained or attempted to gain access to an internet address which contains any form of child pornography. All ISPs shall install available technology, program or software to ensure access to or transmittal of any form of child pornography will be blocked or filtered”

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is supposed to oversee this also. The law says the ISPs at fault should pay a fine and have its license to operate revoked for non-compliance. But the law is allegedly ignored, flouted and disobeyed. If so, it is a grave injustice to the Filipino people and the children worldwide.

The other child abuse scandal broke last week was that of a wealthy American Evangelist preacher, Tom Randall, and his Sankey Samaritan Mission orphanage house manager Toto Luchavez and son Jake Luchavez. The three were arrested by the NBI agents and charged in the multiple sexual abuse and exploitation of 31 children and youth. The orphanage is in Lucena city, south of Manila. Seven of the 31 victims are minors; three boys and four girls. Those minors and youth over 18 years have made strong statements to rescuers and to the NBI that they were systematically, sexually abused since childhood in the orphanage.

Charges based on the strong sworn statements of the many victims have been filed with the prosecutors. The accused deny all wrongdoing. From the holding cell at the NBI headquarters, they amazingly have access to the internet and cell phones and are organizing a defense campaign on social media Facebook, proclaiming they are being set-up and persecuted by the Philippine authorities. Five previous investigations were allegedly squashed by higher authorities in Lucena City.

The victims say they were abused by the manager and his son and begged Randall to save them but allegedly he did nothing. Police suspect that Luchavez may have secret video evidence against Randall. This has yet to be ascertained. He might try to turn state witness to cut a deal with the prosecutors. Assistant Secretary of Justice Geronimo Sy is monitoring the case. The victims are under the care of the DSWD although they are asking to go to a private care center where they can get help to finish their studies and get professional therapy. This case is a challenge to the Philippine government, the people and defenders of human rights to see justice done for the victims without compromise, bribery, or skullduggery.

First published in PREDA.org, January 14, 2014