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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

The Torture and Suffering of the Innocents

by Father Shay Cullen Profiles in Catholicism 24 April 2020

If you are a person that “hungers and thirsts for justice” for the abused and tortured, you will be happy to know that two leading representatives of the criminal regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are on trial in the high court of Koblenz, Germany for crimes against humanity under the principle of  “Universal Jurisdiction.” When evidence is gathered, then any suspect can be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.One day, Assad himself and other torturers and killers around the world will stand trial. Anwar Raslan was a colonel in the Syrian army and headed up a notorious unit, Branch 251, of the Syrian military intelligence. His unit allegedly arrested thousands of Syrians, imprisoned them, tortured, sexually abused, raped, and executed many by state sanctioned torture and murder. When Raslan and his hatchet-man Eyad al-Gharib left Syria to hide out in Germany among thousands of Syrian refugees, he was identified and arrested last February 2019.  Under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, any suspect with strong evidence against him or her for crimes against humanity can be arrested anywhere and brought to stand trial in any jurisdiction.  Read more on this at

Abuse and torture in detention cells is not confined to the tyrants and dictators in Syria and elsewhere. In the Philippines, some mayors have youth detention centres, others call them Bahay Pag-asa, where abuse and torture of children goes on in secret. If they don’t know it, they just need to visit children

  This column revealed last 19 April in The Manila Times drawings made by child victims showing cruel and inhuman treatment, abuse and torture in the cells of the youth detention centres of Metro Manila cities. What is done and allowed to be done to the children are systematic crimes against the constitution and violate all Philippine child protection laws and international laws against torture and the abuse of children.

These laws are ignored and violated every day and night. The children now face the added threat of the coronavirus should one infected person come into the overcrowded detention cells. Most of the children have no contact to their parents or relatives. They are abandoned and if infected they will be isolated and left to die alone, unknown and uncared for. Media reports indicate that the coronavirus is already in Philippines jails.

Many Bahay Pag-asa and youth detention centres are places of abuse and are secret and closed to any outsiders. Charities helping children are barred from going inside to inspect the cells and see the inhuman conditions or interview the children. They are under the jurisdiction of the mayors but President Rodrigo Duterte and the Secretary Ano of the Interior and Local Government can hold the mayors accountable. The law says they should build proper homes for youth and children, instead they build highways. There is no regular inspections of and transparency in the Bahay Pag-asa. They are worse than animal cages and are hellholes of abuse, torture, and punishment. 

  There are a few Bahay Pag-asa with beds and clean surroundings and better conditions but abuse still happens inside. Imagine if your child was picked up on the street and brought to a Bahay Pagasa. What would you do?  

Most Bahay Pagasa are small, dirty jail cells with a filthy toilet. The youngest prisoner has to clean it when it is stuffed with human excrement and smells. There are no shower stalls but a faucet with bucket and pail. Overcrowding is common, as many as twenty or thirty boys or girls confined in small space. Infection of one will get them all.     The small children aged between 10 and 15 showed as evidence their drawings of systematic abuse in overcrowded cells, sleeping on hard concrete floors and punished and tortured. They testify that they were beaten, clubbed, kicked, forced to stand in painful stress positions, hang on the steel bars of the cells and were beaten with rubber slippers. Many were attacked at night and held down by older prisoners and had toothpaste squeezed into their eyes. During the day they were forced to the ground and covered with a sheet and beaten so they could not identify their attackers. Another was put in a steel drum and it was beaten so he suffered pain in his head and ears. Other showed how they were hung upside down by their feet.     Others reported in counseling being forced to do sex acts on older prisoners and were then sexually abused. Another said they were bullied and older prisoners masturbated on their face at night when sleeping.  They were shouted at with foul language and were always hungry having to eat expired, bad smelling sardines and fly-infested food. They said they felt isolated, lonely, had no visits by relatives, cannot exercise and have no sunshine or entertainment of any kind. There is no stimulation or education in most of the cells. Some said a pastor came and read the Bible.

The authorities in command of the Bahay Pag-asa and detention centres write glowing reports of a lovely life for the detainees to the higher government authorities who believe them without any verification.  These places are hellholes of suffering and abuse for small children and must be closed. The law Republic Act 9344 states that every highly-urbanized city and province must have a high standard, DSWD-accredited home for children. What most provide is a shameful house of torture and terror for children. These sub- human conditions have been verified in the past by the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) but change has not yet come. The abuse has to stop, it must be ended. The people responsible must be held accountable for the child neglect and abuse.

We appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to use his power to order Secretary Ano to free the children and close the Bahay Pag-asa other jail-like youth detention centres and build new homes. All are in danger of infection by the deadly Coronavirus. Preda Foundation has offered to receive up to 20 children if they will be freed. Support our campaign to free the children. children


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