Highlighting child abuse

Published by rudy Date posted on April 18, 2011

If there’s anything the reported Willie Revillame controversy did, it gave him international notoriety. Arriving from a trip to the United States and Canada, I could not believe how many Asian publications carried the story on the reported child abuse in Revillame’s TV program. What it actually did was to highlight the despicable number of child abuse cases in the Philippines. Lawyer Leonard de Vera decried in a recent press conference that the controversy was an “orchestrated effort” to destroy the game show host, virtually accusing ABS-CBN of launching an organized campaign against Revillame and his show, pointing out that Dr. Honey Carandang – mother of former ANC anchor Ricky Carandang – wrote to MTRCB and gave undue attention to the alleged “child abuse.”

While it may be true that the Jan-Jan issue was blown out of proportion, the fact is many perceive Revillame to be an unremorseful and arrogant recidivist whose fame and fortune has gone to his head, recalling to mind previous incidents involving him, all of which have been equally well-publicized. But what is more unfortunate for him is that April also happens to be the National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States. Jan-Jan’s video is being used as an example of just how serious a problem child abuse has become all over the world because of poverty.

According to available data, more than three million cases of child abuse are reported every year in the US, with approximately five children dying every day as a result of child abuse, majority of whom are under the age of four. Contrary to common perception, child abuse happens at every socio-economic level, cuts across religious and cultural lines and can occur even in families with a high level of education. An estimated 90 percent of sexual abuse victims are also acquainted with the offender in one way or another, and out of this number, some 68 percent are abused by their own relatives, mainly fathers and stepfathers.

Whichever way you look at it, sexual abuse by one’s own father is probably the most ghastly kind of crime because of the painful violation of trust that happens when someone who is supposed to be a child’s protector turns out to be her tormentor. I can never forget three years ago, when the whole world was jolted by the apprehension of an evil man named Josef Fritzl, the Austrian who turned his own daughter into a sex slave, imprisoning her in a dungeon for 24 years and fathering seven children by her. In the Philippines, the number or incest-rape cases is reportedly on the rise especially in households where the wife works overseas and the daughters become “substitute” spouses to alcoholic or drug-crazed fathers or male relatives. In 2009 alone, 33 percent of the total incident of child abuse cases was reported to be incest-rape.

A recent report by the International Labor Organization disclosed that child workers in the Philippines total 2.4 million, with many of these kids forced to work as farmhands, domestic helpers, firecracker factory workers, street vendors, prostitutes and even soldiers in renegade groups such as the Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army. The latter has become so disturbing that the UN Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict visited recently to monitor the progress of government efforts to prevent the escalating violation of children’s rights in conflict-affected areas, particularly in Mindanao.

No question children are compelled to work mainly because of abject poverty, but what is even more infuriating are stories about parents themselves acting as pimps for their teen-aged daughters. A few weeks ago, many people were aghast to catch a news report about this woman maintaining a sex den with her daughters as the cyber porn “performers” simulating sexual acts, with soft drink bottles and God knows what else as “props.” The Philippines is ranked fourth among countries with child prostitutes estimated at 100,000. Many of these girls are controlled by organized prostitution rings engaged in human trafficking, and the Philippines continues to be in the “Tier 2” watch list of the US for countries engaged in human trafficking.

Many street children are kidnapped by syndicates to turn them into beggars, pickpockets and petty criminals, often subjected to beatings and other violent forms of “discipline.” A real tear jerker was a story about a kidnapped child whose perfectly healthy left leg was cut off just to create sympathy and made to beg in the streets. Thousands of children are also put into jail cells holding hardened or professional criminals – and by the time these kids go out, they have most likely obtained a master or doctorate degree in “crime-inology,” having been mentored by older criminals while in jail. Father Shay Cullen has noted that children who undergo any kind of abuse – be it sexual, physical or psychological – find it difficult to overcome traumatic experiences and become adults prone to anger and hostility, vulnerable to overtures by terrorist or fanatical organizations who turn them into suicide bombers.

Although there are a lot of charitable foundations and NGOs like Caritas Manila and Bantay Bata that tirelessly help abused children, the UN population commission reports that the Philippines can expect more and more street children in the next 10 years because of the high population growth especially among the poor. If there’s anything the Revillame controversy did, it highlighted that other than “gyrating in public,” there is a far more serious problem of child abuse in the country – with the endless number of poor Filipino children subjected to sexual, verbal and physical abuse that is happening every single day. –Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star)

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Email: babeseyeview@yahoo.com

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