by Father Shay Cullen Profiles in Catholicism
The recent decision of the Department of Education (DepEd) to dismiss for Grave Misconduct from the teaching profession Franco N. Aranas, a teacher in New Cabalan High School, Olongapo City should have been a swift decision to protect children and see justice done. However, it has taken almost three years before the decision was made to dismiss the abusive teacher who sexually abused his students. Yet this teacher, Franco N. Aranas, while found guilty for Grave Misconduct by the DepEd's Regional Director, May B. Eclar, can continue teaching in the same school until the dismissal from service is confirmed by Secretary Leonor Briones of the DepEd. We earnestly hope that Secretary Briones acts speedily to confirm the decision of the Regional Director to protect children and see justice is done. The DepEd must not harbor a child abuser among its ranks.
What is wrong with the system where it is clear justice delayed is justice denied, a system that favors the sex abusers and ignores traumatized children? It casts a dark shadow over the institutions. The teacher was accused of sexually abusing three minor students, one 14 and two 15 respectively, in the Sunshine Lodge near the Victory Liner station in Olongapo City on two separate occasions in June and August 2018. This place ought to be investigated for enabling human trafficking and child abuse, violations of law.
It appears the grooming and abuse of victims were ignored in the schools due to apathy and indifference. It is easy to report abuse. One brave teacher informed Preda Foundation by anonymously posting a tip-off on Preda Facebook. Preda social workers acted at once to help protect the victims and start formal criminal and administrative complaints against the accused. But bureaucracy and institutional go-slow attitudes that favor the accused and not the victims were operational. It has taken almost three years of constant follow-up by Preda staff and many hearings and presentations of testimony by traumatized victims to convict Aranas in the administrative case filed by Emmanuel C. Drewery, the executive director and senior social worker of the Preda Foundation, a child protection and healing organization in Olongapo City. Aranas is still on trial for the criminal cases in the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court.
During the formal investigation of the DepEd, Aranas denied all the charges against him and presented an alibi which was said by the panel hearing the case to be faulty and did not preclude the sexual acts happening. The accused teacher also said in his defense that the act was consensual. This was denied since he was in a position of ascendency and power over his students, three minors 14 and 15 years of age.
Another case of child sexual abuse involving a teacher, Corskie San Jose, happened in the Olongapo City National High School in 2017. He sexually groomed children and was ignored for years by co-teachers and supervisors. Then, he sexually assaulted an 11-year old male student under the stairs in the school. The shocked parents of the 11-year old brought criminal and administrative cases against San Jose for child sexual abuse. Mr. Corskie San Jose also sexually assaulted in 2017 another 15-year old boy student outside the school.
After two years of hearings marked by frequent delays and postponements, the DepEd gave Corskie San Jose a six-month suspension only. He is back teaching at present. Recently, DepEd Olongapo City denied his attempt for a promotion.
The criminal cases against Corskie San Jose progressed in the Regional Trial Court and he was convicted in 2019 for the crime and sentenced to a minimum eight years in one case and a minimum of twelve years in the other. He was also ordered to pay the victims moral and exemplary damages. However, he is out on bail. He appealed to the Court of Appeals and that is still pending in the notoriously slow and seemingly inactive Court of Appeals. It is two years on appeal and not yet decided. What takes about two hours takes two years. What are they waiting for?
The notoriously slow, ponderous pace of decision-making in the Court of Appeals potentially allows convicted pedophiles like Corskie San Jose to remain out of jail on bail. The court must realize that convicted pedophiles on bail can continue to abuse and possibly commit more crimes against children. We must complain to the Supreme Court about the lack of action to decide these shocking heinous crimes against children pending in the Court of Appeals. It appears that the justices just don’t care and are waiting for something else.
The greatest enemy of children is the indifference and passive support by the public for pedophiles and pimps that prey on children and sexually abuse them. They give consent to child abuse by their silence, apathy, and indifference. These people are accessories and enablers of crimes against children. They wrongly believe it is not their business to report or interfere but it is the urgent business of everybody.
Schools and church institutions' first reaction is to cover up the crime. The church in many dioceses keeps abuse secret and reassign abusive clerics. Concern for the victims is far from their feelings and thoughts.
The reputation of the institution comes first for the irresponsible clerics and teachers, not the protection of the child victims or the implementation of the law so justice will be enforced and abuse will be challenged and punished. It was only when Mr. Francis Bermido, president of the Preda Foundation, reported the cases that there was media attention. The child abuse of students is just the tip of the iceberg, hidden beneath the waters of cold apathy.
Institutional leaders, bishops, priests, teachers, the public, judges, prosecutors, and police must be challenged for having negative attitudes towards child victims. There has to be a deeper concern, respect for the children and the law, swift action to protect and bring the perpetrators to justice. Anything less is a mockery of law and human rights and the nation ceases to be a respected civilized country.