End tolerance of child abuse by teachers
Fr. Shay Cullen
16 December 2022
Good teachers everywhere are the most trusted people that children look to for help and support in crises and challenges in their lives. Parents trust their children to the protection of teachers and expect that they will be safe and protected. The danger is that the institution will protect its name and reputation before protecting and getting justice for the child. This is what we see frequently in the church when there are reports of child sexual abuse. In the school institution, it is at times the same; the crimes of abuse against children are played down and even brushed under the carpet. Parents are paid off and the child is told to stop making complaints and live with the abuse. It is the adults that fail to help children.
As Christmas is close, there will be celebrations that joyfully recall the birth of Jesus of Nazareth because he brought the Good News that the human race could be saved from gross immorality and self-destruction if humans chose to believe him and his teaching that human rights and dignity were to be respected and love and compassion and justice were to be the great values embraced by mankind.
He said that children are the most important in the kingdom of God and in the world. He also said clearly that child abusers must be held accountable when he a said a big mill stone be tied around their neck and they be thrown into the deep sea (Matthew 18:1-7). It seems that most humans ignore these values and justice has to be fought for and won. This is the case of one young boy who had the courage and bravery to fight for justice and bring his abuser to justice. Let’s just call him Juanito.
When teachers receive a credible report of child sexual abuse in a school, they and the Department of Education officials have to act to protect that child and many other children from the suspected abuser. They must act without delay and many do. In New Cabalan National High School, a teacher recruited two drop out students to be pimps and traffickers of other students and supply victims for sex abuse to the abusive paedophile teacher. The two teenage boys who were recruited as traffickers were found guilty in 2021 of supplying a victim to Franco Aranas, a teacher in the said school. On the other hand, Franco Aranas was found guilty by Judge Gemma Theresa B. Hilario-Logronio on 6 December 2022 of sexually abusing a trafficked teenage boy.
A strong prosecution case was made by dedicated Asst. City Prosecutor Ria Nina Sususco against Aranas for using a trafficked teenager in prostitution. The experienced prosecutor presented the victim who, after therapy in the Preda home, gave testimony that is “candid, simple and straight-forward, credible and consistent in all material points” and defeated with a powerful cross examination the defense of denial and alibi of the accused. The punishment of prison in a tough Philippine jail for 14 years and 8 months for Aranas indicates the severity of the crime against teenage children. The case was filed in March 2019 and the promulgation of the guilty verdict just came out.
Aranas will also have to pay compensation to the teenage victim of a hundred thousand pesos. That amount will increase at the rate of 6 percent annually until paid in full. Aranas is at present out on bail pending his unlikely appeal to the Court of Appeals. The conviction of Franco Aranas gives hope to the many other high school youth sexually exploited and abused by other teachers everywhere but under threat never to complain or report such abuse.
However, more shocking is the fact that Franco Aranas was allowed by the Department of Education to continue to teach children from the filing of the case in March 2019 until May 2022 when he was finally dismissed from service by the Secretary of Education. All that time, he was still teaching children endangering them and even possibly abusing more victims.
The Department of Education under Secretary Sara Duterte must change its rules to put the safety of students first to protect the children and not protect accused members of their profession and institution. All dedicated teachers are surely angry and shocked by this case. It is not the only one, surely there are many where no action is taken.
The students and youth just have to find the courage like Juanito and believe that they will be helped by the judicial system and the Preda Foundation in getting justice. Preda helped Juanito get justice in convicting the two youth that pimped him and in the case against Aranas over a period of three and a half years.
Likewise Corskie San Jose, a male teacher formerly of Olongapo City National High School, was charged with child sexual abuse of a young student boy in July 2017. The Department of Education just said he was a naughty teacher and suspended him for six months. Then he was sent back to teach in another school where he is now despite the fact that he was convicted by Judge Gemma Theresa B.Hilario-Logronio of lascivious conduct twice against two child victims and given two separate eight year prison sentences in June 2019. It so happens that is the same school where the victim is now.
Asst. City Prosecutor Ria Nina Sususco also presented a strong case and convinced the court of San Jose’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He is still out on bail, teaching children pending the long process in the Court of Appeals where justice is denied because of the long delay by the justices. Many children are in danger of abuse all this time. The Supreme Court administrator should look into the long delay in child abuse cases on appeal.
Secretary of Education Sara Duterte has to become the defender of children against these abusive teachers that prey on the vulnerable children under their ascendency and authority. School is the ideal hunting ground for paedophile teachers to satisfy their lust and desires for sexual gratification with children. Principals and teachers have to act and report to the authorities suspicious actions by fellow teachers. It is a legal and moral obligation to put the victims first and show that the Department of Education will never tolerate child abuse in its schools.
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