For the sake of clarity…the director of the mission mentioned here is Tom Randall, the administrator on trial is Toto Luchavez. We’ve also hyperlinked this story with other articles we’ve written about this sordid story that the mainstream and “Christian” press continues to ignore.
July 2016 Review of 2013 Reported Sexual Abuse Case at Children’s Home
Rev. Joseph C. Mauk
We have come to an assessment point of the abuse case we were involved in reporting at the end of 2013. I will review concisely from the beginning so as to provide, for those not yet aware, a flow of events up to the present time.
In late October, 2013, my youngest daughter received a verbal report from one of the teachers at the children’s home that she had been told by two of the girls at the home of being forcibly kissed by the administrator of the home. It should be noted that at this point, the children at the home were young men and women (32 total) ranging in age from 17-23 with one 11-year old boy as well.
I asked if they could get me something in writing so that I could send the report to the director of the mission sponsoring the home who was also my good friend, a ministry partner for many years and the chairman of the board of my company. My company is involved in managing the operations and assisting in the development of Christian conference centers in the Philippines. The two girls, because of close monitoring of all activities by the administrator and his staff, smuggled letters out to the teacher so she could provide them to us. This was at considerable personal risk because all of the young people had been required to sign contracts agreeing to not share anything negative about the children’s home to anyone outside or inside of the operation of the home.
Having received these letters, I immediately scanned them and emailed them to my friend, the director of the mission sponsoring the home. His response was for me to let him handle it. He said he had received such reports before and that he would be arriving in the Philippines in five weeks to handle the situation. I had worked with this friend many times in the past in handling administrative problems so I assumed this would be handled properly as well.
While waiting for his arrival we received word from the girls at the home that the two letter-writers were brought by two female staff to a private room and badgered by the staff until compelled to write a retraction of their letters. We also received word that a man was being allowed into the girls’ dorm at night. My company was providing security for the home as a service to my friend’s mission so I immediately arranged to change the security guards assigned at the home and to include lady guards to provide specific security for the girls’ dormitory. This attempted replacement was fiercely fought by the administrator, who called the mission director in the US who, surprisingly, also opposed a change of the security guards. We made our case quite strongly and the change was allowed but three days later the mission director authorized the administrator to change security agencies and most of the prior guards were re-hired by the new agency and assigned to the home. We discovered that over the years these guards had been selected by the administrator and were either relatives of his or personal friends from the area. (Also the official board of the home by this time, although previously independent of administration, had devolved into consisting of the administrator, his wife, his son, and two employees paid by the administrator.)
When the mission director arrived in the Philippines he did not engage in a normal investigation of such matters nor did he call me in, as usual, to assist him in the problem. He met with those involved and gave warnings not to spread rumors and bad information about the home or its administration. When he met with the teacher who had received the first reports, my daughter went with her and they met at a restaurant in a public mall. The mission director would not allow my daughter to sit with the teacher as he talked with her. (Incidentally, the mission director had performed the wedding of this same daughter just six months before in California.) He took out a yellow legal pad and informed the teacher that he was taking notes of their discussion. She said okay and placed her cell phone on the table in recording mode. For 90 minutes he lectured her on not going to extremes about such issues, how bad I and my family was for making an issue of this and, at the end, offered her “an unrecorded cash advance” if she would just come back quietly to work. This she refused. About this time my daughter and her husband came back to the discussion as things were wrapping up. As they were concluding and saying good-byes the director moved to give my daughter a hug. When he noted refusal of such he went into a rant as to how she needed to stay out of this or she and her whole family (meaning me) would be deported from the Philippines and did she want this to happen? My daughter’s husband also had his cell phone on record mode at this time. Although the mission director subsequently and up till now denies any wrongdoing on the part of the administrator of the home, in his conversation with the teacher he not only said he believed that the administrator had done what the girls claimed, he also said he had “fired” the administrator, which actually never did happen.
After meeting with the teacher, the director called me on a Saturday to arrange a meeting with me some distance from my residence. Unfortunately, I was ill with diarrhea that day and said I couldn’t travel but could meet him the next week. He asked if I was open to email correspondence. I said yes. On the following Monday I received an email from him resigning from my board and cutting off any association or further communication with him.
At this point it became quite obvious that no serious investigation or proper treatment of the abuse complaints would happen. At the same time additional reports began to be received by us that much more severe abuse was happening to the young men at the home. This was being perpetrated in the past and up to the present by up to three male pedophiles who were former and present employees of the home and one of whom was the adult son of the children’s home administrator. We then understood why, when we attempted to replace the security guards, the staff ran and blocked the entrances to the boys’ dorm and let no one in and out at that time although the girls’ dorm was left unblocked and my daughter and the teacher were able to talk freely with the girls about the guard transition taking place. All of my five daughters have been professionally trained in spotting and reporting sexual abuse through their career training. Four of the five are here in the Philippines and they sought a way to report this ongoing cover up of abuse to authorities. This culminated in a raid by the NBI (Philippine National Bureau of Investigation, equivalent to the American FBI) in January of 2014. The American mission director was still present at the time and was taken into custody along with the home administrator and his son.
The rescued young people were all interviewed by the NBI and nine made sworn statements before a judge. These sworn statements then formed the basis for charges. The mission director inaugurated an intense defense by means of a rather extensive support network including social media and political connections. He was released without charges after 22 days. One NBI source said that, under Philippine law, he could have only been charged with negligence as the main funder of the operation, with a penalty of 20 days, so they were basically happy with the time of detention for him. For the administrator and his son, the statements made were more serious. Against the son, charges of rape were filed which are normally unbailable. For the administrator himself the charges were lasciviousness and thus less serious. However, the court set bail for the administrator at 540,00 pesos and the son at 380,000 pesos ($13,000 and $9,000 respectively) indicating the court looked at the administrator as a more dangerous threat than the son, even though the formal charges were less. The NBI and the court fully expected the accused to be jailed from time of arrest and throughout the entire trial process. The salary for a worker making minimum wage in the Philippines is about $3,000/year. But the entire bail was paid immediately in cash by the wife of the administrator. This payment of bail changed the whole dynamic of normal process. This was typical of someone from a wealthy family or some high-level figure working for a crime syndicate. The case was immediately passed from the Manila court to the regional court in Lucena City for it to play out there.
So, in the Philippines, once money comes into the picture, the advantage goes to the perpetrators. If no one shows up in court to testify, the case is dismissed. That can often be arranged. Or if they show up, there are ways to perpetually delay so that it is a tremendous hassle to keep showing up. If the witnesses don’t show up, even one time, the case is dismissed.
In our case, the first hearing was a set-up. None of the witnesses were given notice and the hearing was taking place with the administrator grinning from ear to ear knowing the case was about to be dismissed. But a lady missionary who works with other abuse cases happened to be in court that day, heard this case being called and the names of the witnesses not present. She had just met with some of them the day before and immediately called the attention of the prosecutor and judge that no notice had been given to the witnesses. Another legal point, technically the judge is unable to dismiss a case without formal evidence by registered mail that the notices had been received, though it is often just assumed and not confirmed. So the judge re-scheduled for three weeks later, the missionary let us know, we let the witnesses know and 11 victims and supporters were there three weeks later. The defense had filed a motion to quash the case on the basis of illegal arrest, improper jurisdiction, etc. The hearing proceeded with the NBI agent who did the arrests testifying to the legal basis. The judge, seeing the witnesses stand up when their names were read, ruled for the attorneys to submit their final arguments in writing within 90 days for his decision to be made. Interestingly, at the same time the judge was announcing his decision to require written final arguments, the mission director in the US and the pastor of his megachurch were announcing all the charges had been dropped and the entire raid ruled unjustified. Somehow that made us think there were some prior arrangements made (before the judge saw the real live victims!). Consequently, the motion to quash was denied when the judge gave his ruling four or five months later. The defense filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals but so far the trial has been allowed to proceed. After the first near fiasco, I hired private legal representation by request of the victims so that nothing should proceed without notification. It has been two and a half years since the arrests and the actual trial was due to start last June 15, 2016. Again, no notices were sent, not even to the private law firm registered with the court to represent the victims, the defense attorneys pled for dismissal, but I had obtained a tentative schedule personally from the clerk of the court in March and was there with another advocate just in case it was proceeding. We were able to inform the court, once again, no notices had been given. Three more dates have been set for trial continuation in August, October and November.
To bring us up to date. Last week the remaining victims willing yet to testify met with their attorney to see what the future of the case looks like. It is good to remember, although the children’s home was often called an “orphanage”, that the children were not truly orphans, very poor and disadvantaged, even abused, but they had family. After the release of the young people (minors remained in social services custody but almost all were of age to be released) there was a great effort by the mission director and the former staff (with continued influence of the former administrator) to re-gather all the young people under their umbrella. They were promised college education (most were already enrolled in college but were told it would not continue to be paid for without their cooperation). They were promised vehicles, jobs, health care for parents etc., in return for staying part of the “family” and not saying any bad things. A few refused and have established independent lifestyles and a great deal of personal success. So far they are still willing to testify in court. But even on them the pressure is great. They are promised jobs and lifetime security, “just don’t testify in court, it’s the Christian thing to let it go”. The sponsors have provided tickets to visit family in distant locations, “coincidentally” over the exact dates trial testimony is scheduled, etc.
Now to present reality. If at any time from this point on, the notified witnesses do not appear, the case will be dismissed. At the same time the defense can use many legally valid delaying tactics to stretch the trial over two years or more. (If the accused were in jail, they would not favor delaying the verdict!) The attorney of the victims feels, even with all of the delays and subterfuge a conviction would be quite possible. However, following a conviction, the defense (assuming the money keeps flowing) can file an appeal with the Court of Appeals. It takes at least five years for the Court of Appeals to review a case. So the attorney estimates 10-15 years before anyone would see jail time. This is a lot to ask of the witnesses! It explains why the wealthy and connected in the Philippines rarely see jail time. BTW, the former vice-president of the Philippines was just last week charged with corruption in court. His bail was set at about the same as the bail set for the son of the administrator of the children’s home but less than the bail set for the administrator of the home! Obviously the court thought the administrator of the children’s home was a serious and dangerous perpetrator when they set the bail. But, money talks, perpetrators walk.
The few victims remaining willing to testify are playing it by ear. The moment the case is dismissed the bail money immediately goes into the hands of the administrator. The victims don’t want that to happen. So it looks like the waiting game will go on a while longer. We may never see a conviction but what has happened due to the courage of the few victims willing to speak out, against great opposition, is as follows:
1. The children’s home was shut down. It was already operating without a license for the age group they had but was being tolerated. No longer.
2. The administrator and his son will never be able to have any institutional authority over children.
3. The young people, even the ones still under the mission support umbrella, testify to a much better life now than what they had before the raid.
4. As long as the case continues, there can be no police clearances for the accused so they cannot travel abroad.
5. The ones really free are flourishing in a way they could never imagine before.