[People] The Great Pain of Justice Denied by Fr. Shay Cullen

The Great Pain of Justice Denied
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

 Perhaps there is no greater emotional pain a person can suffer than being severely wronged, hurt, and then denied justice. The pain is all the greater when the evidence is strong and clear and after years of struggle and perseverance, the guilty are declared innocent. The pain of defeat and denial of justice is intensified for the rest of the victim’s life.

Shelly was only 11 years old when her own father raped her, almost every day when her mother left the house to run their hardware business. Shelly was frequently sick, and was sexually abused by her father; soon she was a traumatized wreck of a child. She dropped out of school, and was threatened. “I will kill you and your mother and burn the house down if you tell anyone” was his worst threat.

When Shelly got really sick her mother brought her to the hospital. There the observant female doctor saw the signs of physical and psychological abuse. The bruise marks on her arms when he held and shook her, the fear in her eyes when she was asked if anyone had hurt her in her private parts. Then in the privacy of the surgery, Shelly whispered what she had hidden for months. The good doctor conducted a series of blood tests and genital examinations.

The forensic evidence revealed the shocking truth. Shelly was suffering from a sexually transmitted disease and had multiple genital abrasions. Her mother would not believe her or the doctor. She was in denial and said Shelly was lying. The doctor called the police and social worker and they brought her to the Preda Home for abused children where she was safe. The child’s complaint was filed with the prosecutor who tried to dismiss it but after perseverance and protests it was filed in court by the Preda paralegal team.

Inexplicably, the judge granted bail for what is a non-bailable offense. The prosecutor went along with it and made no protest. It meant the abuser was free and a threat and Shelly could not go home. It took four years of court hearings with countless postponements and delays and Shelly was still determined to testify.

She had healing therapy and new friends in the safe and secure Preda Home for abused children. She was going to school daily and feeling the affirmation, support and care of the Preda staff. She had healed and grew strong in mind and heart. She now had self-confidence and gave clear detailed testimony in court and stood strong under cross examination. The big day came, pronouncement of guilty or not. The evidence was incontestable, the medical forensic evidence, her own brave testimony and the testimony of the doctor and the psychologist. Then the decision was read out – the accused is found NOT guilty!! He walked away free, gloating and smiling. “Money talks, the accused walks”, they say here.

We were dumfounded and Shelly cried long into the night. A bitter blow indeed, that’s the root of social problems and poverty in the Philippines, a flawed judicial system where the Chief Justice is on trial .What hope is there for the little children? It took months to cope but Shelly did and went to live with a supportive auntie. She enrolled in college with the help of a Preda scholarship and graduated cum laude. Today, Shelly is a psychologist helping other children like her at the Preda Home for Children.

Shelly is just one of hundreds of thousands who are denied justice all over the Philippines and the world because of corrupt prosecutors and judges. At Preda, the paralegal team is fighting 43 cases in court on behalf of abused children, most of them victims of sexual abuse done by their own biological fathers or the live-in partners of their mothers. There are 18 more cases filed by Preda with the prosecutors and no resolution. That’s where bribery is the biggest threat. There are 11 more cases pending in court, yet no hearings set. Out of a total of 62 cases seeking justice, no justice yet. Seven cases like that of Shelly’s have been dismissed and only two convictions have been won after years of hard work. The brave children are denied the closure that true justice brings. Perhaps not only the Chief Justice ought to be on trial, but the judiciary itself for its failure to deliver. END

Contact Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines. e-mail: preda@info.com.ph, newsletters@preda.org

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