Revisiting Cordova’s young cyberporn victims
Rosemarie Gonato, a psychologist who specializes in trauma and child abuse, visits the rescued children of the 2011 Cordova raid every now and then to check on how they are coping.
“What they need is a safe and healthy environment so that intervention and counseling can be done,” she said.
Gonato is the lone psychologist of the Women and Children’s Crisis Center, also called the “Pink Room” of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City.
She testified in the ongoing trial of the children’s parents as an expert witness for the prosecution.
Gonato said sustained exposure to pornography leads to serious psychological disorders in minors.
“Constant exposure to pornographic materials will register in the brain. The images are hard to erase especially when one gets used to them. The effect will set in later. That’s why they need long-term intervention. How long? That would depend on how a child copes,” she told Cebu Daily News.
She said children rescued from porn activities have a distorted sense of values influenced by their parents, whom they look up to.
“These children are made to believed that cyberpornography is not actual, sexual contact, that its not a direct invasion of the body. Their parents were doing it, so the children think it’s normal to engage in cyberpornography. They believe that whatever their parents teach them is right,” she said.
“In reality, it’s not okay. It’s not healthy to experience that. These children have lost the sense of what is right or wrong. When they grow up, they will realize that what they were doing was wrong. Now we have to tell them that what they were experiencing was not a normal occurence,” she added.
ACT OF SCANDAL
Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, in a separate interview, said the proliferation of cyberpornography was an “act of scandal” that should be stamped out by the Church and the government.
“I’m just wondering why some people are into this kind of business. Is it family necessity? They should remember (first to) to protect their children and remain in a state of grace,” he said.
The 83-year-old prelate called on the clergy to intensify catechism to impart lessons on Christian values at the barangay level.
“We’re trying our best to evangelize them and instill in them the fear of God. Our evangelization should reach down to the people in the barrios,” he said.
Cordova town, like the rest of Mactan Island, whom oldtimers refer to as Opon, falls under the jurisdiction of the MSC religious order or Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. The parish is not run by diocesan priests.
In an interview soon after her arrest along with her husband two years ago, the children’s 34-year-old mother expressed remorse.
“Mangayo ko og pasaylo sa akong mga anak. Nagmahay mi. Nahimo ni namo tungod sa among kawad-on (I apologize to my children. My husband and I regret doing this to them. We did this because we’re poor),” she said.
The mother said she and her husband turned to online pornography for money, transacting with foreigners and receiving dollar payments, after they stopped working in a factory in Lapu-Lapu City.
The 44-year-old father, a former Mactan Export Processing Zone worker, said the Internet racket was their only source of income and that they took up the same enterprise many of their neighbors were doing.
But when the parents were arraigned in court, they made a turnaround and pleaded “not guilty” to charges of qualified trafficking, child abuse and child pornography, saying they didn’t harm their children and all they had in mind was their family’s future.
The mother was six months pregnant when she was arrested.
On Aug. 22, 2011 or almost three months after she was arrested, the mother gave birth to a baby boy who is now under the care of his aunt.
The crackdown by the NBI in June 2011 was followed by at least four other raids. All of them ended in the arrest of parents for exposing their chidren to cyberpornography.
Cordova town, a fishing village in Mactan island, has been identified by law enforcers as a “hotspot” for home-based cyberporn.
“While cyberpornography is not limited to Cordova, I would assume that we have a serious problem there,” said NBI-7 director Antonio Pagatpat.
Despite a couple of operations, he said cyberpornography continues to be rampant in Cordova.
“We have conducted raids in Cordova and our agent are not done yet. They are investigating other cybersex dens in that town. We will not allow our minors to be exploited. We will never be tired and we will not stop as long as there are people who get exploited,” Pagatpat said.
He said was surprised that even parents would sexually exploit their children.
“This disproves the belief that ‘no mother intentionally exposes her children to harm’,” he said.
Martha’s parents are presently detained at the Lapu-Lapu City Jail pending resolution of three sets of charges – child pornography, child abuse and human trafficking.
They are indicted for violation of Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, Republic Act 7610 or the Anti-Child Abuse Law, and Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. (To be continued) /Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter
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