Children in a slum area in Manila bathe in an inflatable pool to get relief from the scorching heat on April 6, 2013. Image Credit: AFP

Manila: When the body of four-year-old Mark Escarmosa was found in Metro Manila’s eastern suburban Rizal on April 4, his head was half cut off from his neck, his knee-cap and internal organs were missing, a radio report said.

Shocked, his parents, Elena and Marlon Escarmosa, told dzBB the police claimed that autopsy could no longer be conducted on the decomposing body of their son; that it would look into the possibility that he just met an accident.

Earlier, they asked the local government of Pililia, Rizal, for an autopsy and an investigation into the death of their son who went missing on March 19.

A total of 38 cases of child abduction have already been reported to the police, the government-run Philippine New Agency (PNA) said.

Majority of the cases involved children in depressed areas. The children reportedly went missing after being followed by a man with garbage cans, or by garbage collectors, PNA said.

But PNA did not clarify if the suspected abductors were believed as informal garbage collectors who privately retrieve recycled materials from garbage bags left out by homeowners for collection by government-run garbage collectors.

Last week, the Philippine National Police (PNP) officially said there is yet no evidence to show that a criminal syndicate is behind the growing number of missing children from Metro Manila’s depressed areas.

Some cases that were reported by parents involved runaway children who eventually returned home, the police also said.

In response, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said president Benigno Aquino called on the police to immediately investigate reported cases of missing children.

She also asked the police to remind parents to promptly report missing children.

It was the first time that children in depressed areas were reported as victims of abduction.

In the past, kidnap-for-ransom gangs victimised children who belong to the upper and middle classes.

Many of them were children of ethnic Chinese families that readily paid ransom demands without reporting to the police.

Policemen were allegedly behind the kidnapping, the parents suspected.

It is not yet known if the same suspicion is still true in the cases of children abduction in the depressed areas.