A story of one girl’s fight for justice

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Here is a story that will gladden the hearts of all who care about children, abhor child abuse and are willing to speak out for human rights. It’s a story of a child’s courageous struggle against all odds.

People of good conscience who shun evil and wrongdoing will hunger and thirst for justice and someday, if we struggle hard enough together, we have a greater chance of finding justice than if we stay silent and do nothing.

So it was for 14 year-old Martina, she sought justice. She grew up in an impoverished family in Olongapo city not far from the sex industry where young girls are lured and trafficked into prostitution and captured by the bar owners of many nationalities. It had a bad influence on her father.

Her mother, Maria, suffered leukemia and her father was unemployed and did part time jobs for a living and got money from relatives. Without a regular job, the family could not pay for health insurance. The medical system is so privatized and medical help is so expensive, the poor cannot survive even common diseases. There is no social insurance or a national health care system in the Philippines.

Maria wasted away and died and left Martina alone with her father who turned to smoking marijuana and took to visiting the cheaper sex bars. He met young enslaved teenagers there and became addicted to abusing the young girls. The drugs made him aggressive and moody and one night, he attacked and raped Martina, his own daughter. She was shocked, hurt, and traumatized.

The corrupt political practice of condoning and allowing a thriving sex industry run mostly by foreigners who prostitute young girls with impunity has eroded the moral values and corrupted family and community life.

Most child rapists terrorize their victims with threats of torture and death if they tell anyone. Martina was threatened with death by her father. She endured the abuse in silence and he, believing his terror tactic was working, raped her several more times. Unable to endure it any longer, Martina ran away to her material auntie in Taguig, Metro Manila.

Her auntie noticed her traumatized state and gently asked her what had happened. Martina cried and found the courage to tell her auntie. She told the most difficult thing of all – she was pregnant. Shocked and angered, the Auntie filed a criminal complaint against the father. The police filed the charges in Olongapo City and the social workers from Taguig called the Preda children’s home hot-line to refer Martina for counseling, shelter and therapy. She was welcomed into the Preda Home for sexually exploited and abused children and felt at home with the other forty children and the Preda professional staff.

The Prosecutor Joy Bayona quickly acted and resolved the case and filed it in court on 5 May 2011, and when the accused did not appear to answer the charges, an arrest warrant was issued. He went into hiding, it took many months for Preda paralegal workers to find him and have the police arrest him. During this time, Martina, still under care at Preda, was brought to a special clinic and gave birth to a normal healthy baby boy.

By 20 October 2011, five months later, the arraignment was set in the family court, Olongapo city. It was postponed and reset for 3 November 2011, then postponed again; Judge Pamintuan being absent. After two more postponements, the arrangement was finally set on 25 May 2012; one year after the arrest warrant was issued.

The wheels of justice having stopped a few times began to grind again with all the supporters of Martina pushing and shoving. The abusive father pleaded not guilty. The case dragged on and more delays were made. It is a common legal tactic hoping the child would give up and fail to appear as a witness, the case could then be dismissed. Martina would not give into the pressure to give up. She feared that many more children would be abused if he went free and he might harass or attack her again.

There were eight more postponements with months between the settings due to various reasons. Then after some lobbying by Preda Senior staff to the court administrator of the Supreme Court, Judge Bautista was appointed to assist Judge Pamintuan. He took on the case of Martina. The accused was advised by his counsel to plead guilty to a lesser charge and he was found guilty on three charges of rape and was sentenced to ten years for each charge which is equal to a life sentence.

The Preda paralegal officer, Marlyn Capio requested the judge to consider the plea of Martina to have a barring order issued so that if ever he got out, he could not pursue her. Judge Bautista did so.

This week, the case ended a long protracted pursuit of justice and the end of the rampage of a serial child sex offender. Martina is a survivor, healed, supported and empowered by her courage and brave pursuit of justice and truth. Martina is reintegrated to a happy family. The child is healthy and well.

 

 

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