MANILA: Philippine authorities have urged parents to be extra watchful following several reports of child abductions perpetrated by gangs who prey on youngsters, apparently to be sold as child sex slaves or beggars.
On Friday evening, April 5, 2019, Manila police arrested a 27-year-old woman for allegedly trying to snatch a child in a neighborhood in Marikina City, a suburb north-east of the Philippine capital, where a birthday party was being held.
Marikina Police identified the suspect as Marjorie Dejan, from Quezon City. The police withheld the victim's name, age and gender.
Based on police record, Dejan was initially seen in a neighbourhood where a birthday celebration was being held, near the victim’s house, at around 8 pm, the Daily Inquirer reported.
The suspect reportedly approached the victim and eventually forced the child to go with her. Upon seeing the commotion, witnesses near the area confronted Dejan and alerted the police.
Dejan was later arrested and detained to face charges of attempted abduction under the Anti-Child Abuse Law.
According to Police Colonel Rederico Maranan, Marikina City police station commander, the suspected tried to abduct the child because she plans to sell the minor to yet-to-be-identified accomplices.
Php1,000 (Dh70, $20 )per abducted child
It was just the latest episode.
On February 10, 2019, a suspected kidnapper identified as Lilibeth Bustamante was caught trying to walk away with a 10-year-old girl in Paranaque City, a southeastern suburb of Manila.
The victim was reportedly playing in front of her house when the suspect took her by the arm and told her to come with her to a nearby store, but a neighbour intervened when he noticed the girl asking for help, the UK's Daily Mail reported on February 28, 2019.
In her detention cell, Bustamante fessed up with horrifying details about criminal gangs who grab children from streets and even in malls to be sold into sex slavery.
Bustamante told investigators in Tagalog language that she received 1,000 pesos (Dh70) for each child. She admitted working with another female accomplice to grab children from the streets before they were passed on to her paymasters.
In an interview with local media, Bustamante gave horrifying details of how her group would kidnap young boys and girls to sell to foreign “buyers”, who would rape them while streaming the act online and charging paedophiles to watch.
Her excuse for engaging in kidnapping: "We're only poor people."
“They (paymasters) only give me one thousand pesos. I send it to my family in Mindoro.”
Bustamante explained in Filipino language: "We have a quota of two children per week. Our target age is ten years old and above. They require us to take good-looking children. They get 70,000 pesos to 100,000 pesos depending on their looks. My cut is 1,000 pesos."
Her confession gives troubling clues into problem of child kidnapping in the Philippines.
On February 27, 2019, Norly Rafael, 53, was arrested for attempting to kidnap five children in Quezon City on February 24, three days earlier.
Director Guillermo Eleazar, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), identified Rafael following the latter's arrest in Barangay (Village) Commonwealth.
Rafael admitted to police of being involved in kidnapping children to sell them to prospective “buyers” for P5,000 each, said Lt. Col. Rogath Ocampo, National Capital Region Police Office, Regional Special Operations Unit chief.
In another incident, police identified Romualdo Abalajon Jr., 49, for allegedly trying to grab a girl in Barangay San Joaquin, Pasig City.
Witnesses had identified him as among the occupants of a green van reportedly behind several child abductions in Binangonan, Rizal, ease of Manila.
Police said they have yet to establish if there is really a criminal syndicate involved in the abduction of children.
In January last year, a three-year-old girl was rescued four days after she was abducted and two suspects were arrested. Metro Manila Southern Police District (SPD) director Brig. General Tomas Apolinario Jr. then told the local media that the suspects tried to sell the victim for "P8,000 to P10,000."
Apolinario added, if the suspects failed to sell her, they would have forced the child to raise money by begging for alms in Cavite, a province south of Manila.
“We should guard our children and be aware of where they are if they leave the house,” Police spokesperson, Col. Bernard Banac said in Filipino during an interview with reporters.
It's not immediately clear how many Filipino children had been reported missing or may have fallen into the hands of this vile gang members roaming the country's streets.
The Philippine capital has a population of 12.8 million according to the 2015 national census.