Fr Shay writes: 'one law for the rich and none for the poor'

 If ever there is any one single piece of evidence that illustrates the gross inequality in the Philippines it is the treatment of those innocent children accused of crimes and rich politician behind bars. It is a rare once in a lifetime event when a rich politician is convicted and jailed for child sex abuse or any other serious crime. Thousands of innocent young people have been arrested, jailed and left to languish in prisons and police station jails with adult criminals and paedophiles in filthy conditions. So just to get one powerful Philippine politician behind bars to serve his sentence gives hope to victims. Last 19 June 2007 little Ramon, a diminutive kid looking only ten years old but says he is 14, was taken from the children's prison in Metro Manila by the Preda child rescue team. He was a street boy, was never charged or convicted of any crime yet was imprisoned for two months and could be there two more years had we not had him freed and brought to the Preda Boy's Home in Olongapo City where he can recover and start a new life. We also met Pedro, a young boy held at the Paranaque police station who had a bandaged hand. He had been shot in the arm by pursuing police suspected him of theft. The Preda rescue workers looked at his wound and saw three small bullets wounds there were going septic and he had no medical treatment besides irst aid. Gangrene is a present danger. He is still under arrest we are trying to get him released so we can treat his wounds. Another pending release based on a commutation of sentence handed down by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo recently. The lucky recipient is the former Zamboanga del Norte congressman Romeo Jalosjos. A man of wealth and influence. He was convicted of child sexual abuse after raping an 11-year-old girl in Makati, Metro Manila, 20 June 1996. He was given two life sentences totaling 80 years but he is to be released from prison on November 18, 2008. Just in time for his 68 birthday and having served only 10 years and 5 months. Romeo Jalosjos told reporters that he would be pardoned in 2008. He was given sick leave to go to a private hospital when he felt ill. Good for him but no such treatment for the sick imprisoned children. They lie hungry on cold dirty concrete floors in police cells while Jalosjos is lying in a comfortable furnished room/cell on a soft bed and served specially cooked dishes. His cell is reportedly air-conditioned furnished and fully equipped with all mod cons. Despite being sentenced he retained his congressional seat for almost 5 years while he appealed his case to the Supreme Court where his conviction was finally confirmed in 2002. Only then did the Philippine House of Congress reluctantly remove him from the rolls. He was convicted in 1997 after a hard won legal battle by female lawyers led by private prosecutors. He was convicted 1997 and should not be eligible for executive clemency until he has served 23 years of his sentence and is set to walk free. The authorities do not like such trials. There have been few convictions of foreign sex tourists or politicians. Such high profile trials puts the spotlight on the sexual excesses of congressmen. It also scares away sex tourists. No major sex trafficker of Philippine children has ever been convicted. The Philippine Bureau of Immigration has just recently removed airport officials suspected of facilitating the trafficking of women and children for bribes. Abuse is so rampant now, and family life is gravely affected. The culture of impunity and non-implementation of the law has emboldened the child abusers and most of the perpetrators are biological fathers and live - in partners. It is the defenders of children, those of us who confront and challenge the sex industry and expose the corruption and the abuses of women and children that get counter- charged with libel, kidnapping, slander. Manufactured evidence and false witness are easily found. There are thousands of human rights defenders and missionaries who work on the front lines defending human rights, upholding justice and truth and taking incredible risks trying to save and rescue the poor and the exploited. They need our support and solidarity. For more information see:

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