Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Prophetic words of priest blocked in the Philippine Senat

By The Advocate

28 November 2016

*In response to the false accusations of Senator Richard Gordon
*Father Shay Cullen a Judas Escariot -Senator Gordon.
*Senator Gordon blocks freedom of speech of Senator Hontiveros
*Father Cullen refutes allegations of Senator Gordon
*Prophetic words of priest blocked in the Senate.

During a Senate deliberation on the 2017 budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) last November 16th Senator Risa Hontiveros was stopped from reading a newspaper column written by Father Shay Cullen depicting the awful conditions in detention centers in the Philippines and how the children must be helped. When Senator Richard Gordon heard the name of Father Cullen he reacted and angrily he interrupted Senator Hontiveros and ordered her to stop reading the column. It should not be heard on the Senate floor, he said, otherwise if she insisted on reading it, he, Gordon, would filibuster her presentation.

The highly respected Senator Hontiveros was quoting a column of Father Shay Cullen, writer, journalist and founder of the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974.

The Preda (People’s Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance Foundation) is an organization protecting vulnerable and abused children and victims of human trafficking. 

His widely read column is published every Sunday in The Manila Times and other international newspapers and online www.preda.org where an average of 1,500 people visit daily.

The particular column from which Senator Hontiveros quoted listed the terrible conditions suffered by the children in the local government detention centers in Metro Manila and elsewhere.

“I don’t normally intervene when somebody is questioning here, but I will, because we’ve all had enough of this man who pretends to be a priest, but in reality he is like Judas Escariot. I am taken aback. If you’re gonna use him, I don’t think we should even listen to this,” Gordon, the former mayor of Olongapo City said to Hontiveros.

Gordon, using his privileged speech, effectively denied Senator Hontiveros her constitutional right of freedom of speech by using his position as a senator and refused to have his remarks against Father Shay Cullen stricken from the Senate record.

Father Cullen, a human rights advocate, described in his column some of the local government detention centers that are sub-human where the children are crowded into cells behind steel bars like criminals. Children as young as eight years old are mixed in with boys as old as 17. Sexual and physical abuse abounds and the children are underfed and suffer scabies and other health conditions. They are deprived of their rights to education, exercise, sunlight, humane living conditions and other human needs. Their parents are not found and many are abandoned.

The concern of Senator Hontiveros for the children was apparent but Senator Richard Gordon, the former mayor of Olongapo City, did not share it. He interrupted to tell Senator Hontiveros to stop reading and citing the column of Father Shay Cullen. He actually censored Senator Hontiveros.

Senator Gordon sees Father Shay Cullen, a Missionary of the Society of Saint Columban, as a long time critic from the days when the Gordon family dynasty ruled Olongapo City. Father Cullen came to Olongapo City in 1969, served in the parishes and established the Preda Foundation in 1974. Its goal was and is to save youth from death squads in the city at that time and to meet the needs of the youth and sexually exploited and trafficked children in the rampant sex industry.

The Olongapo City sex industry, comprising of hundreds of sex bars and clubs was the only economy provided under the Gordon dynasty that ruled the city for almost fifty years. Olongapo City hosted the US Naval Base on Subic Bay until 1992.

Thousands of people have been helped by the Preda Foundation but Gordon and Father Cullen clashed in 1982 when Preda social workers and Father Cullen uncovered and exposed a secret cover up of a rampant child prostitution ring that preyed on poor vulnerable Filipino children, some as young as nine years old, abused by American servicemen. Father Cullen spoke out and publicized the child abuse and demanded an investigation. The then Mayor Gordon was furious that the sordid sex ring involving young children was brought to light by Father Cullen.

The American serviceman Daniel Dougherty was identified as one of the many pedophiles abusing the Filipino children. Following the expose by Fr Cullen, he was brought to trial in Guam, a US territory. This did not sit well with Gordon who was called to testify and was held responsible for the abuse for hosting and protecting the US military bases and the sex industry. He provided “entertainment with sex” and gave a mayor’s operating permit to the sex bars and clubs where thousands of women and children were abused and exploited daily.
Mayor Gordon denounced Father Cullen and tried to have him deported and the Preda children’s home closed down and taken over by the city. But he failed and considered Father Shay Cullen his critic and enemy. Father Cullen said he forgave Gordon long ago and prays for the senator to see the light of truth.

Father Cullen was asked to comment on the efforts of Senator Richard Gordon to blacken his name and had this to say:

“Our mission is to stand for the poor and the exploited children and women and be prophetic in announcing the truth of human rights violations and working to heal and help the victims. Whatever Senator Gordon says, it cannot be believed. He is a politician and will reject criticism of wrongdoing. For me, this work is the duty and mission of every one- to speak the truth, oppose evil and fight for justice.”

However Senator Gordon apparently has not forgotten Father Cullen especially when the latter called for the removal and replacement of the US bases with economic zones to provide jobs with dignity and replace the sex business for sailors despite vitriolic opposition by the then Mayor Gordon.
After the fall of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the anti-bases coalition of which Preda Foundation is an active member, won out and the Philippine Senate voted to remove the bases.
The economic zones campaigned for by the coalition became a reality. This is a big historic victory for the anti-bases coalition and Preda Foundation and a success today as Olongapo is a boom city without the US bases and the Gordon dynasty. Faced with an ignominious defeat, the then Mayor Gordon changed his position and claimed credit for the removal of the US Naval Base and told the media that the establishment of the economic zone was his idea all along.
This is the background as to why Senator Gordon spoke to stop Senator Hontiveros from citing the weekly column of Father Cullen last November. Gordon said in the Senate hearing that Father Cullen has a dubious reputation and spread lies all over Europe.

The record shows that Father Shay Cullen is a well-known and well-received public human rights campaigner and international speaker and media commentator. He has been awarded numerous human rights awards and nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has been invited twice to give testimony before the US Congressional Committee on Human Rights and in the German Bundestag.

During the Senate deliberation in November, Senator Hontiveros motioned that Gordon’s attacks against Father Cullen be removed from the record. Gordon then warned Hontiveros that if she insists on doing so, he would delay the proceedings.
"If you want to take it out for the record, I'm willing to filibuster here if you continue to do this," Gordon said.

The committee allowed Gordon’s remarks against Father Cullen to remain on the record much to Gordon’s shame.

Gordon has long been outspoken against Father Cullen and his mission. On his official Facebook page, Senator Gordon describes Father Cullen as “a Caucasian who believed he had his own white man’s burden of saving the poor Filipinos. . .” He accused Father Cullen of combating child abuse and drug trafficking but ignoring the plight of the victims.

However, to be fair, Father Cullen and the Preda workers campaign daily for the rights of the victims and the Preda Foundation has established two beautiful therapeutic homes in Zambales for their protection, safety and recovery.

He also accused Father Cullen of exposing the plight of Rosario Baluyot and "nearly jeopardized” the case against her abuser. Rosario Baluyot was a street child sexually abused by a sex tourist and died in Olongapo City. Father Cullen campaigned for justice for Rosario and prevented a citywide cover up of the crime. The case against the Austrian suspect was held in Olongapo City and he was convicted. Later, on appeal, it was dismissed. Father Cullen did important work to win a conviction.

According to Father Cullen, Senator Gordon has made false and libelous allegations against him. He explained that there never was any investigation by the DSWD or church authorities of Gordon’s accusations of abuse at the Preda Center.

“The allegations have been dismissed totally as baseless and manufactured and they were designed to harass and persecute me in retaliation for my work in defending children’s rights and exposing crimes against children,” he said.

“Mayor Gordon has tried and failed to destroy my reputation. I tried to stand for the child victims who were raped in the city that sponsored the sex business and I opposed the US military bases because they were the root cause of it and I promoted conversion of the facilities to a Filipino economic zone to give alternative jobs, what’s wrong in that?”

The charge of libel against Father Cullen in 1999 by then Davao City Mayor Benjamin de Guzman cited by Gordon on his official Facebook page was the campaign of Father Cullen against the Davao death squads. He risked his life to protect the street children.

 The Davao court dismissed the charges of libel when the mayor withdrew his baseless complaint.

“It is fair to say that the abuse of the Senator’s privilege speech to damage and destroy the reputation of those who question the social and economic problems of the country is deplorable,” Father Cullen said. “It diminishes the senators themselves and causes the people to loose faith in the institutions that are supposed to uphold the highest standards of human behavior and respect for the rights and dignity of everyone. This is what Senator Gordon has failed to do.”


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