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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

Fifty years of Preda Healing Therapy for abused children

by Father Shay Cullen Profiles in Catholicism

It has been a good start to 2024 for the work of the Preda Foundation that is celebrating its golden 50th anniversary of service rescuing, protecting, healing and empowering children after their ordeal of being trafficked and sexually abused by traffickers, relatives and sex tourists.

The Preda Foundation was begun in 1974 in Olongapo City to help teenage boys that were arrested and jailed as suspects of drug abuse and illegal possession. In those days of martial law, there was also extra-judicial executions of drug users and dealers. Many teenagers were killed. Then, to stop the killings an international initiative named The Colombo Plan promoted a new law in the Philippines that allowed the arrested and accused youth to be released to a rehabilitation center for recovery and healing, and when successfully rehabilitated, they could have the charges against them dismissed and have a normal life.


It was important to save and heal as many as possible and to prevent more drug abuse and killings so I started the Preda Foundation drug rehabilitation center to help these young people. It was later discovered during therapy that many boys were self-medicating because of physical, verbal and sexual abuse in their family. Today, Preda has two therapeutic homes for abused and traumatized boys.

In Olongapo City, the drug and children and women abuse was because of the negative influence of the US military base situated at Subic Bay next to Olongapo City. The demand of the US sailors and marines for sex entertainment created a sex industry to supply them with young girls, many under-age, that were enslaved in the sex industry where drug abuse was common.


In 1983, Preda uncovered and publicized a child sex abuse trafficking ring in Olongapo City with several child victims suffering from venereal disease, one as young as nine years old, being abused by a US Navy officer and others. The US court martial held in Guam exposed the widespread abuse scandal where the children gave testimony and a US Navy officer was convicted.


The local authorities condemned the expose for giving a bad image to the city and moved to deport the author and close the Preda children’s home. The Preda Foundation started a campaign to close the US bases instead and proposed the facilities be converted to economic free-port zones. It was known as the anti-bases campaign and was successful when in 1991 the Philippine Senate voted to close the bases.


However, it was too late. Very severe damage had been already done to the once sacred Philippine family life and Filipino culture by the permissiveness of Philippine government officials. The officials had allowed and encouraged the sex industry by issuing licenses and operating permits to sex bars and hotels and it still goes on today.


They had made sex for sale and child abuse socially acceptable. There was little, if any, condemnation of it. The age of consent was 12 years of age. One in every three children experience sexual abuse at least once.


Preda was an invited representative to the conference for consultation for the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of Child in 1989 in Helsinki, Finland. Soon after ratification, Philippine child protection laws were enacted to comply with the convention. Preda was very active in promoting several new laws then and until the present, recommending a Special Children’s Court for abuse cases.

Child sexual abuse, especially online abuse, is now a heinous crime. A new law has made the age of consent 16, and child marriage is illegal, criminally liability of a minor is now 15 up from nine. Strong laws protecting children are active. Despite stringent laws, child abuse and trafficking continue and are being uncovered and challenged by Preda and other NGOs. Law enforcement struggles to get convictions. The Philippines is now the hub of online child sex abuse.


Preda has always conducted extensive drug and child abuse prevention seminars and training of duty bearers such as teachers and parents, and children as it does until the present. It continues this important preventive work and uses mainstream media and social media extensively to educate, build awareness and encourage action to report abuse.


In 1996, Preda opened a therapeutic healing center for girl-victims of child sexual abuse. Since then, as many as 600 girls have been healed, many won convictions of their abusers. There are at present 65 girls in the therapeutic home in Subic, Zambales recovering from sexual abuse and trafficking. They are being empowered and regaining self-confidence and want to win justice for themselves like many other victims/survivors in Preda have done recently.


These children are finding their emerging personality, discovering freedom from fear and intimidation of their abusers. They are resilient children ages 6 to 17 and are walking free. They continue their studies while in the therapeutic home as they take up the Emotional Release Therapy developed by Preda. It is based on the work of Arthur Janov who wrote the Primal Scream.


In a sound-proof, padded therapy room, the children recall their experience of childhood rejection, punishment and physical or sexual abuse. They are helped by trained therapists to release their pent up hurt, anger, emotional pain and frustration by shouting, verbally confronting, screaming and punching the foam cushions. This surfacing of buried memories of abuse helps them to re-experience the pain of being abused and now they can get it out and can fight back. It frees their mind and heart. They grow in self-confidence and feel strongly emotionally empowered.

Together with attending school, there are many other therapies. After all this, they find the determination to fight for justice through the courts. The Preda children win an average of 18 to 20 convictions every year with the help of the Preda paralegals. Already in 2024, four convictions have been won by the children’s clear testimony that left no reasonable doubt of the guilt of the abusers. Here are the most recent victories. The real names of children are not used here.


Ali, eight years old, was molested by her grandfather. He was sentenced at six months to six years in prison by Judge Maribel F. Mariano-Beltran of the Family Court in Iba, Zambales.  


Lea, nine years old, was sexually assaulted by her father. He was sentenced 12 to 20 years in prison by Judge Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio of the Family Court in Olongapo City.


Julie, when only 16 years old, was raped by her half-brother found. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison also by Judge Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio.


Jovy when 16 was raped by her paternal uncle. He was also sentenced to 10 to 17 years in prison by Judge Maria Josephine M. Rosario-Mercado. 


Preda has a succession team carrying on the work into the future working with dedicated prosecutors and the child-friendly judges of the family court. They are vital in bringing justice to the children.


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