Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – It was an hour past midnight on Sept. 9, 2019, when Joni, a teenage boy living in an orphanage, was awakened by what he described as a "painful feeling" on his genitals. When he opened his eyes, he beheld a nightmare.
"He was there. He was shocked," Joni said. "I put on my pants and chased him down the stairs. 'What did you do to me, Brother? Why did you pull [my pants] down?'"
Recalling the horror of that night, Joni, who has chosen to use a pseudonym to protect his identity, explained how he confronted Lukas Lucky Ngalngola, the director of Joni's orphanage, whom the boys referred to as the "night bat". He said Lukas begged for forgiveness for "making a mistake" and got to his knees and kissed Joni's feet.
Joni, who was 19 years old at the time, did not know what to do next with Lukas, or Brother Angelo as he styled himself. Joni wanted to hit Angelo, his sole guardian and the head of the Kencana Bejana Rohani orphanage in Depok, West Java, where Joni and dozens of other children lived under Angelo's care.
But Joni could not think straight. "I rushed to the chapel. I asked God to forgive my sin and his."
Joni later went upstairs to wake up the cook, Yosina, also known as Mama Ejon, and poured his heart out in tears. "I couldn't bear it any longer. I told her everything and asked her what to do. Mama told me to report him to the police."
Yosina confirmed Joni's story, adding that she encouraged him to talk about the matter first with a caretaker named Aloysius Tolok, also known as Alo.
Joni's courage to speak up eventually inspired other boys living under Angelo to open up to the adults they knew. Angelo, a member of the Blessed Sacrament Missionaries of Charity (BSMC) congregation, based in the Philippines, was arrested by the Depok Police on Sept. 14, 2019.
However, he was released after three months in detention because the police failed to complete the dossiers required for the prosecution to bring the case to court.
Joni was one of eight boys who shared their stories with Tirto.id in two separate interviews on Aug. 12 and 22, as part of a collaboration with The Jakarta Post.
Some of the boys said they were molested, others that they had endured physical abuse. All of them called their alleged abuser, Angelo, the kelelawar malam (night bat) as they said he would carry out his terror in the middle of the night, usually at around 1 a.m., dressed in black.
Unlike Joni, who confronted his molester, the other boys were too confused or disoriented to take immediate action. Some thought they had been drugged, noting that they had discovered their pants either unzipped or taken off.
Lorenzo, who has also chosen a pseudonym for this article, recalled finding his pants unzipped one day when he woke up. "I did not know what he [Angelo] did to me. I was unconscious."
Lorenzo said he was convinced that Angelo had molested him. He recalled the nights when he and some other boys caught Angelo in the act but were unable to accuse their sole provider.
"We could not say anything because our lives were in Angelo's hands. We could not fight back, even though we were hurt, because we were certain that no one would support us," Lorenzo said.
"We have nobody here. We live far away from our parents. We did not know where to go to report [our experience]. Also, we did not know what would happen to us if we reported [Angelo]," he said. "Who would pay for our school fees? Our parents are poor. We also couldn't go home because we didn't have money for transportation."
In an attempt to prevent Angelo from preying on other boys, Lorenzo and other older boys would take turns on night watch, blocking the doors to their rooms with beds to prevent Angelo from sneaking in. But additional boys believed they were molested during this period.
Paul, for example, said he witnessed Angelo engage in oral sex with orphanage residents at least three times. Paul believed he was probably molested as well but could not remember because he believed he had been drugged.
Like his friends, Paul, who was 16 at the time and has chosen a pseudonym for this article, could not bring himself to publicly accuse his alleged molester.
"Our anger would instantly fade away when we looked him in the eyes, as if he was magic."
Paul, who is related to Angelo by blood, said Angelo would take the boys to the cinema "as a treat" so they would forget the predation. "And he would promise not to repeat it, which he never kept."
As the night bat continued his abuse, the boys brought the matter to Alo, who suggested they make peace with the situation, an idea the boys helplessly submitted to until Joni spoke up.
But everything changed after Joni reached out to other adults. Other boys from Kencana Bejana Rohani followed suit and discussed their stories with caregivers and some Catholic brothers at their local church. Some of the children told the principal of a school they attended. The principal later contacted the National Child Protection Agency (KPAI).
Eventually, three of the boys – Lorenzo, Joni and Simone – worked up the courage to give their testimonies to the Depok Police in a case filed by activist Farid Ari Fandi against Angelo – who had been detained.
Two of the boys were about to undergo a physical examination at the police office when all three were picked up by someone who the police failed to identify. Investigators only managed to examine one boy.
The police said they could not continue the legal process because they had not completed the dossiers required for the prosecution to bring the case to court. The claimed this was because they could not find the boys. Angelo walked free on Dec. 8, 2019.
Poverty lured children into Angelo's net
According to a document the Post obtained from the Law and Human Rights Ministry, which certifies nonprofit foundations operating in the country, Angelo registered Kencana Bejana Rohani as a charity foundation on Dec. 14, 2015. The document lists him as founder and chairman. But, according to Darius Rebong, Angelo's acquaintance, Angelo had been operating the orphanage under the same name since 2007.
In addition to Kencana Bejana Rohani, Angelo had also established another charity foundation, Fajar Cahaya Harapan. A document from the ministry shows that it was registered on April 14 of this year.
The children who lived at Angelo's orphanage came from different parts of the country. Some, like Lorenzo and Joni, were from villages in North Sumatra, while others were from Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara.
Yet all of them shared similar backgrounds, ones of poverty and limited access to education.
Many of the children who lived under Angelo's care still had parents. The parents entrusted Angelo with their children because of promises of a brighter future, according to the boys.
Angelo was able to reach out to more boys with the help of those who had first joined his institution. Some of the boys who came from North Sumatra said they learned of Angelo and his education charity program from a person named Pilipus, one of the first boys that Angelo took in and a person they considered a friend.
Simone, not his real name, from North Sumatra, for example, said he did not know Angelo until he joined the orphanage.
"I knew him from Pilipus. At first my parents did not allow me to go because they were afraid that I might fall into human trafficking. They changed their mind after Pilipus convinced them. Pilipus had joined [the orphanage]," said Simone.
Like Simone, Lorenzo decided to leave his parents in a North Sumatra village for Depok after being convinced by Pilipus. Lorenzo described Pilipus as Angelo's "right hand" man whose job was to "win the hearts of parents".
The children from Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara said they learned of Angelo either from family members or acquaintances of family members.
Only a few parents found out about Angelo's alleged abuse, according to the boys. Some of those who knew confronted Angelo but decided to keep the matter to themselves after Angelo agreed to continue to pay for their children's education until graduation.
"So all that suffering, all that wrongdoing – the children put it out of their minds, so to speak. They were aware, but they were putting it out of their minds for the sake of their future," Farid told the Post.
Darius took over Angelo's role as the guardian of the orphanage after his arrest because of what Darius referred to as "an agreement" between the two. He has been taking care of the children since and has been reaching out to donors to help support the children under his care.