Child Abuse In The Philippines

What the Expat Needs to Know

Another American (Gary Lee Rohn) has been busted on Bantayan Island for having children in his company..  This time, its an older man that has reportedly been living in the Philippines since 2001.  He recently had his marriage annulled and he seems to be implying that his ex-wife is involved in this.  That mayFlag of The Philippines be true, but that doesn’t change the law.  Even if you think a law is unfair, that does not give one the right to ignore it.

He is in the country as a missionary for the Church of Later Day Saints which may prove to be important in his defence.

He’s an old guy, probably lonely and kids come to his door asking for money and wanting to visit.  At least that is his claim.  A claim that sounds reasonable to me.  However he is still alone with minors that are not related to him and that is illegal in the Philippines!

The law that makes it illegal to be alone with children is Republic Act.. 7610 which is quoted, in part, below:

Any person who shall keep or have in his company a minor, twelve (12) years or under or who in ten (10) years or more his junior in any public or private place, hotel, motel, beer joint, discotheque, cabaret, pension house, sauna or massage parlor, beach and/or other tourist resort or similar places shall suffer the penalty of prison mayor in its maximum period and a fine of not less than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00): Provided, That this provision shall not apply to any person who is related within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity or any bond recognized by law, local custom and tradition or acts in the performance of a social, moral or legal duty.

So if you are 28 years of age or older, the law makes it illegal to be alone with anyone 18 years of age or younger in any place.  The law may apply if you’re under 28 but it will always apply if you are older than 28.  The exception for “performance of a  social, moral or legal duty” would make the law not apply to government agencies, priest and others while performing their official duties.  Does it exempt teachers?  I would think so but that would be open to interpretation.  Would it apply to a missionary?  That too would be open to interpretation.

One cannot blame a government agency for enforcing such a law.  Government agencies are expected to enforce law passed down to them even when they don’t personally agree with it.

A lawyer for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) seems to be hinting toward this when he reportedly said:

Lawyer Irene Cabales of the Children’s Legal Bureau said they would want to test Republic Act 7610 that prohibits anyone, especially foreigners, from having minors under their custody.

I can’t find any where in the law that makes foreigners a special class.  However, common sense would suggest that foreign men alone with children is more suspicious.  It certainly would be with me.  Especially when there seems to be a pattern of this behavior.

In this case however, the timing seems odd.  It comes shortly after another American was found alone with a 12 year old girl.  Rohn, the American implicated in this case, recently ended a marriage which suggest there could be some motive for revenge.  Still, he was alone with Children.  Their ages ranged from 3 to 15.

One serious problem for Rohn, will be explaining the pictures of children showering that has been discovered on his laptop!  I do not know if these children were nude or if they were children in his home.  However, those videos are troublesome considering he has a house full of children.

Another mark against Rohn is that a 19 year old witness claims that the American attempted to sexually abuse him.  I can find no other details and don’t know who is making this accusation or if Rohn had the ability to do this.  One would think it was one of the children that has been hanging out at his home but it also could be a relative of someone that wants revenge.

What does this law mean for blended families?  I don’t now, especially for unmarried blended families.  If one is planning on coming here, it is certainly you should ask yourself, especially if you plan to join a woman with children.

For an American, the law seems to vague to hold up in court but this isn’t America!  I can’t apply my values and limited knowledge of American law to the Philippines.  For one, the legal process here seems much more based in common sense .  However, to me, such a common sense approach seems open to potential problems.

I understand why the Philippine government would pass such a law.  They are trying very hard to put an end to child abuse and how could one, in their right mind, be against that.  On the other hand, if you are in your home with a neighborhood child, you are at risk.  I would never let that happen intentionally, it just feels wrong to be alone with a child that I don’t know or don’t know very well.  However, doors often go unlocked here.  Kids will be kids and no telling what they might do or where they may go, including inside your home!

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Filed under: Living In The Philippines

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