In May, 2018 all international lay associations were urged by the Vatican’s Dicastery of the Laity, Family and Life, to assume the priority of safeguarding minors and vulnerable adults. In response, the Teresian Association established the Commission for proper treatment and action against abuses. This commission designed the TA Protection Policy and Code of Conduct and set up a Framework Protocol.
The webinar was conducted to disseminate among the TA members in the Philippines, the result of the work done by the Commission. It was attended by over 149, PA and ACIT members and their families, parents, and guardians of the students of the TA schools in Quezon City and Davao City, alumni, and employees of entities under the Teresian Association.
The main speaker was Charisse Marie C. Raagas, licensed Nurse, Guidance Counselor and Teacher. She is also a TA member and a member of the Commission that crafted the TA Protection Policy and Code of Conduct. She made a compelling presentation that showed how child sexual and other kinds of abuse do exist even in the Philippines. She discussed about the culture of safeguarding that the TA wants its members and collaborators to have and to consciously promote.
Thus, the protection policy and the code of conduct must be disseminated through training and education to all who participate, directly or indirectly, in Teresian Association centers, programs, projects and activities as well as to all employees, volunteers, trainees, consultants, specialists who, in one way or another, work or collaborate in a center, program or project of the Teresian Association.
Ms. Raagas shared with the participants the Work Plan for this culture of care:
- Compilation of good practices that will involve a survey of the life and writings of the TA that demonstrate its commitment to the dignity of persons and the defense of human rights.
- Training Process that will identify the path taken by our societies (the legal framework) in the defense of the rights of individuals, and especially children, women and the most vulnerable groups.
- Institutional Policy for the Protection of Children.
- Establish an Advisory Commission.
- Awareness, Information and Visibility.
Specific measures should therefore be aimed at (a) prevention; (b) implementation; and (c) protection.
Secret and silence
In the Philippine context, she cited that although Filipinos may be known to be child-loving, abuse, especially within the home, does exist mostly in secret and in silence. There is a greater need for vigilance and action during this period of lockdowns, cancellation of face-to-face classes and regulated travel. Minors in the lower economic class are more vulnerable to abuse because the poverty they find themselves in, leads to overcrowded living conditions that do not provide for privacy. There is limited or non-existent access to child and adolescent protection services in many communities. Thus, during lockdown, the home is not a safe place for abused children.
Ms. Raagas said that timely responses to the current challenges could include:
- Training of personnel in the sectors of health, education and child services.
- Provide more information about care and other support services available for children.
- Encourage children and adolescents to reflect on how COVID-19 affects them.
- Provide specific support to interim care centers and families.
In conclusion, Ms. Raagas challenged the attendees by quoting St. Pedro Poveda: Truth is found in deeds, not in words… It is our works themselves that testify to us, speaking with an eloquence unparalleled of who we are… Now, let us put this rule into practice… for it is not a characteristic of our Work to accumulate precepts without fulfilling them.
Maria Trinidad Tonogbanua.