Thousands call for release of American pastor from Philippine jail

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Jan. 24, 2014

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – “No news about Tom today. His phone was confiscated because of security crackdown. Lots of unrest in cell. Pray for safety tonight.” – This was a message Pastor Joe Coffey just posted on his Twitter page, about a longtime colleague and friend who may be going through the toughest time in his life.

“Tom” is Pastor Thomas Randall, an American that considers the Philippines his home.

The former professional basketball player and avid unicyclist and juggler focused on missionary work and founded the Sankey Samaritan Orphanage in 1988 in Lucena, Quezon with his wife.

“Tom loves the Philippines and the Filipino people. He probably feels more Filipino than American. He loves the kids and the kids love him,” Coffey said, in an interview with Balitang America. Coffey and Randall work for the same Ohio-based church, Christ Community Chapel.

Weeks ago, Philippine authorities began investigating Randall and his staff, after they received a complaint that a worker kissed a 15-year old girl.

Earlier media reports stated that Randall was arrested for “allegedly abusing children” and his staff,Toto Luchavez and Jake Luchavez were arrested for reportedly sending “orphaned girls to friends for sex.” They supposedly faced charges of human trafficking and sex abuse.

Coffey said he was shocked when he heard of his friend’s arrest. “I know his character and what he has done in the Philippines,” he said.

Coffey also maintained that Randall took immediate action when his authorities began investigating his worker’s conduct towards the teen. “He met with the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and they went through a full investigation and found there was no evidence for these allegations,” Coffey recounted.

But Randall was still arrested — not on charges of human trafficking or sex abuse, as originally accused…but on charges of negligence.

Randall’s staff members, Toto and Jake Luchavez, were also apprehended.

Randall has been detained at a cell in the NBI headquarters in Bulacan since his Jan. 12 arrest.

Coffey said he fears for his friend’s safety inside the prison. He said Randall is locked in a cell with 48 inmates who share one toilet.

He is also concerned that Randall’s health issues would only worsen behind bars. He said Randall suffers from pneumonia and urinary tract infection.

And yet even in his darkest hours, Coffey said Randall’s worry is making sure the kids in his orphanage are being looked after.

About 30 orphans living at Randall’s orphanage have since been removed following his arrest. They were also reportedly questioned by authorities in connection with charges against Randall and his staff.

Philippine authorities have shut down the orphanage.

Coffey said he has reached out to U.S. legislators, as well as to Ambassador Jose Cuisia, the Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. to ask for their assistance in having Randall released.

Randall’s supporters from the church and from the community have also created the “Free Tom Randall” page on Facebook, which currently has over 35,000 “likes”.

Coffey said he and members of his church applaud the Philippine government’s efforts to combat human trafficking. But he pointed out that there are times when authorities become too aggressive in implicating someone — even if that person is innocent.
He concluded, “It’s the judicial system’s job to figure out who’s innocent and guilty. And our prayer is that the judicial system in the Philippines would work well…that justice would be done and truth would be known. My message to Philippine authorities: The world is watching on how they handle this case.”

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2 Comments on this post.

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  • JD
    25 January 2014 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    All you have do is find out who is right ? The 15 years old girl or the person that kiss her ? What’s wrong if the worker only kiss the 15 years old girl ? They should find out what happen right away, because they have a American lock up in jail ? I think they was a misunderstanding ?

  • Annonymous
    26 January 2014 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    “What’s wrong if the worker only kiss the 15 year old girl?” Does not anybody see the irony of this statement? How come nobody comments on this. Would you like to have your 15 year old daughter kissed by someone who has promised to provide a home for you? Wouldn’t you want the leadership of the orphanage take immediate action if allegations of abuse are made? How come the new report does not even mention the 31 victims of this case? They are victims of rape and molestation, the attention should be focused on their well being!