Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Four more victims and witnesses have come forward and made a report after the Depok Police in West Java reopened a year-old investigation into a case of sexual abuse of orphanage boys, allegedly committed by their sole guardian, a Catholic brother.
The investigation was restarted following the publication of stories by The Jakarta Post and Tirto.id that shed light on the failure of the state and the Catholic Church to give the victims justice. The suspect in the case, Lukas Lucky Ngalngola, or Brother Angelo as he styled himself, is a member of a Philippines-based Catholic congregation, the Blessed Sacrament Missionaries of Charity (BSMC), and founded an all-boys orphanage called Kencana Bejana Rohani.
The boys from the orphanage called Angelo kelelawar malam (night bat), since he would allegedly carry out his acts after midnight, putting on all black attire. The boys claimed Angelo drugged his victims.
The police have recorded new statements against Angelo from four boys, who are now under the care of Darius Rebong, the founder and head of a new orphanage, also in Depok. One of the boys had gone through a physical examination, said Depok Police investigator Second Insp. Tulus Handani.
"The process is still in its early stages," Tulus said. "What we must do from now on is to protect the children in a safe place so that they can provide further statements when needed in order to ensure the legal process runs smoothly, unlike the previous one."
Last year, the police failed to complete the dossiers for the prosecutors' office to bring the case to court because they claimed they could not find the whereabouts of the three boys who first made a report against Angelo. By the time the police found the boys, they made a statement to retract their report. By law, the police should have continued the case regardless of the victims' retraction, but they did not pursue more statements for the dossiers, resulting in a rejected dossier by the prosecutors.
The boys at that time did not receive any legal or psychological assistance from anyone. Even the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) left the legal process to a bystander in the case, an orphanage forum leader in Bogor, Farid Ari Fandi. After three months, the investigation crumbled and Angelo walked free in December last year. He soon established a new orphanage and lived among boys again in Depok.
For the current investigation, the four boys were accompanied by Darius, who is the founder of the orphanage where the four, along with 40 others, lived, Tulus said, adding that he had made the police report in his capacity as the guardian of the children.
The four boys that have provided their statements to the police are currently under the protection of the Social Affairs Ministry's children rehabilitation center in Jakarta. The ministry provided a trauma healing program for them. During the initial investigation, none of the boys received such service from the state.
To keep the four children in a safe place, far from the orphanage, is important to protect them from any unwanted interventions that might influence them to change their mind later, as happened to their peers last year, KPAI commissioner Putu Elvina, who is in charge of the case, says.
"Working together with child protection officers from related institutions as well as the children's lawyer, we continuously encouraged them [the four boys] to be courageous in telling their stories," Putu told the Post in a recent interview.
A joint effort led by the KPAI is also looking into the possibility of human trafficking in the case due to reports of Angelo's method of recruiting boys who joined his orphanage. Most of the boys in the orphanage are not really orphans, but rather children from poor families in North Sumatra, Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara. Some of the boys told The Jakarta Post and Tirto.id that Angelo or his partners promised a scholarship to pursue a better education in Depok.
"We believe that he [Angelo] does not work alone," said Putu.
While the legal process against Angelo is ongoing, the KPAI is assessing the condition of the rest of the boys who formerly lived at Angelo's Kencana Bejana Rohani orphanage, and who currently live under the care of Darius Rebong. Returning the children to their parents or transfering them to other orphanages that are considered more established and professional are the feasible options on the table for the time being.
At the same time, the state-sponsored Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK) is also reaching out to children who may have been Angelo's victims as well as other individuals who might know about their stories in order to make sure that the legal process against Angelo actually proceeds.
The LPSK has received a request for protection from Farid, the first person who reported the case to the police.
"We have been in contact with Darius, the current guardian of the children," LPSK commissioner Edwin Partogi Pasaribu said.