[People] THE RESCUE. By Fr. Shay Cullen

THE RESCUE
Fr. Shay Cullen
8 July 2014

The dilapidated house and few small cottages falling apart made up what was called S.C.O.T.S. Foundation for abandoned children. It was set up by Lilian May Thomson, 65, from Dunfermline, Scotland. According to her US passport she is named as Lilian May Zimmer. Her house is in a remote place at the end of a small, narrow valley in Subic, Philippines. It is a place surrounded by forested hills and a small river running nearby. But that outward beauty shielded something very sinister and horrific within.

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This beautiful setting was ideal for another Preda children’s home and with the sex tourism growing, more children were being abused, trafficked and sexually exploited. While we challenge government, church and society to act more forcefully to end it, the victims have to be helped to heal and recover from the abuse on the streets, in brothels and rescued from child abusers. That’s our mission.

While the new Preda Home for Girls was being built about three hundred meters from the SCOTS compound on the other side of the small river, I noticed posh-looking vehicles parked there. I saw non-Filipino elderly men holding and touching children. That bothered me because it is strictly forbidden in any children’s home.

I contacted the government welfare department and learned that the Scots Foundation had been disavowed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). So this place looked like a failed project or a fake one.

The new children’s home was built and the Preda children moved in earlier this year. The Preda children are always singing and laughing and playing games and running about. On June 1st, as I arrived to visit and celebrate the mass, I saw three little children at the entrance, one girl was completely naked, the others were skinny and semi-naked. They had been attracted to the Preda home by the singing because they were hungry. After they had eaten and clothed, they said they were from Scots Foundation.

I was alarmed and instructed a Preda social worker to bring them back there and see the conditions and why they are disheveled and malnourished. Had we kept them at the Preda home without official approval, we could have been charged with kidnapping as happened to us once before when we rescued children. The Preda Foundation being a private charity does not have the authority to rescue children without the government authorities being present.

The social worker reported that it was a house in disarray, the place was dirty, and smelt bad. Zimmer was smoking, unwashed and she appeared drunk. A 7 year-old was caring for a naked 6 month old baby of mixed race, Korean-Filipino. Another girl, about 6, was tied in a chair with plastic binders. She was having epilepsy seizures.

The Preda social worker informed me of this situation and immediately I wrote a report and informed the DSWD director by email and courier. I requested the children be rescued immediately as they were in dire and dangerous circumstances.

After a delay of two weeks, no rescue team arrived and I sent another social worker to see the condition of the children. It was worse. The children were dirty, crying, undressed, hungry, one was still tied to the chair. Zimmer was smoking non-stop and appeared drunk.

I called again for the officials to rescue them and then two government social workers and 7 police from Subic town went to Zimmer’s house to rescue the children. They were prevented from entering the house and allegedly Zimmer hurled invective at them and threatened to kill them if they entered. Fearing that she might have a gun, they withdrew without rescuing the children.

After this Zimmer went to the Preda home at night shouting and cursing at Preda social workers and blaming Preda for calling the police. She allegedly grabbed one of the Preda social workers and pulled her the length of the building and uttered threats and bad word against the children.

I continued making more requests and phone calls to the authorities. Then eventually, one month later, on 3 July, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officers and two DSWD social workers went to Scots Foundation to rescue the children.

Again, Zimmer confronted them and gave off foul language and picked up a spear and threw it at the social workers, it grazed one of them. The NBI agents overcame their fears and sprang into action before Zimmer could throw the second spear.

They restrained and handcuffed her and brought her to the NBI jail and booked her. The next day, Zimmer was brought to the office of the prosecutor in Olongapo city and a lawyer was appointed to represent her. A Preda social worker was there also.

The female prosecutor heard all the evidence, the fearsome spears were presented as evidence of the attack on the officials. Two male foreigners showed up, friends of Zimmer but when they heard that probable cause was established by the prosecutor, they left immediately. Zimmer was presented before the court at 7 pm that same night and remanded to the city jail. Kudos for the judge.

The children were taken into care in a private child care center. One child said when there was electricity in the house of Zimmer, they were before a camera naked. Another 7 year-old girl child said she was groomed with make up and a party dress and brought to a party of adults. It has since been established by medical examination the three girls ages about 6 or 7 have been severely sexually abused.

The children are being given full support and comfort, good food and clothes and are eager to tell all that happened to them. More has yet to be revealed… (to be continued) [shaycullen@preda.org ; http://www.preda.org]

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

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