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Police: No link between missing children, organ trafficking

April 11, 2013 3:02pm
(Updated 3:39 p.m.) Police investigators have denied that the spate of missing children cases is somewhat connected to organ trafficking — a grim possibility that surfaced when a missing four-year-old boy was found dead recently with his internal organs gone in Rizal province.

According to Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), it is unlikely that the missing children were kidnapped by criminal groups for their organs to be sold illegally.

"We have also spoken to our counterparts doon sa DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) at wala po tayong naitalang record na may batang nawalan ng organ, at nagkonsulta na rin tayo sa mga doctor—hindi po possible iyon na tatanggalan ang bata ng internal organs for transplant, hindi po viable iyon," Molitas said in an interview aired on GMA News TV's “News To Go” on Thursday.

A medical professional confirmed this.

In a phone interview with GMA News Online, Dr. Bu Castro, president of the Philippine Hospital Association (PHA), said that although children's organs are viable for transplant, organ trafficking in the Philippines is unlikely nowadays.

"We have a very, very strict law against it," he said. "We have an organ donation law and there is a legal process to it."

"I think [what] the police meant, hindi na viable kasi decomposing na. The organs intended to be transplanted must be medically harvested fresh as possible," he clarified, alluding to the case of the boy in Pililia.

Law vs organ trafficking

Republic Act No. 7170 or the Organ Donation Act of 1991 regulates the donation of human body parts after death.

In 2008, then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the total ban on all kidney transplant to foreigners as response to criticisms that her administration was promoting "transplant tourism."

The ban — intended to protect poor Filipinos from exploitation — prohibits foreigners from getting donated kidneys unless they can prove a donor is related to them by blood.

The World Health Organization, in 2005, identified the Philippines as one of the global hot spots for organ trafficking, along with China, Pakistan, Egypt and Colombia.

Castro admitted that there was a time when the black market for organs was rampant in the Philippines, but added, "Controlled na 'yung black market, that was 6 to 7 years ago."

Reports on the possible link between the kidnapping of minors and organ trafficking surfaced after authorities found the body of four-year-old Mark Escarmosa in Pililia town in Rizal with his head almost cut off and his internal organs missing.

Although investigators are not discounting the possibility of foul play, they are also looking into whether Escarmosa's death was due to an accident.

Police said they could no longer conduct an autopsy on the boy, who had been missing since March 19, because his body was already in an advanced state of decomposition when it was found at the bottom of a ravine Thursday last week.

Missing children

Meanwhile, the police has intensified its efforts to track down other children who were reported missing.

According to GMA News' Maki Pulido's report on “News To Go,” the Philippine National Police (PNP) has created a special task force—Task Force Sagip-Anghel—to address cases of missing children.

Among those still missing are Kevin Rodrigo, 9, who never came home after he was asked to buy bread at a local store near their house; Rafael Trinio, 4, who was kidnapped near his house in Sta. Cruz, Manila last November; Junjun May Sican, 5, missing since Christmas last year and last seen at a mall in Parañaque City; Dada Mateo, 10, a special child, missing for almost a month now.

In light of these cases, Molitas reminded parents to ensure the security of their children.

"Ayaw po nating isisi sa mga magulang natin 'yung mga nangyayari, ngunit ang sinasabi po natin ay maging mas vigilant ang mga magulang, mas bantayan pa nila ang kanilang mga anak lalo na kung wala pa sa age of reason," she said.

"Kailangan po siguro, further parental guidance. Mas palawigin pa ang pagdidisiplina sa kanilang mga anak at sa pagbabantay rin," she added.

At the same time, Molitas said police in Metro Manila will strictly impose curfew in the region to prevent possible kidnapping of children.

"There are already existing ordinances relating to curfew and what we will work out is the strict implementation of these ordinances," Molitas told reporters at a press briefing at Camp Crame.
Most of the ordinances said curfew starts at 10 p.m. and lasts 4 a.m. the following day.— KBK/RSJ, GMA News
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