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Public Affairs

5 year-old boy kidnapped, forced to beg on the streets

Could some of the children seen begging on the streets of Metro Manila be kidnap victims? Following a number of kidnapping cases recently reported in the news, “Reporter’s Notebook,” a weekly late-night investigative program hosted by Jiggy Manicad and Maki Pulido, documented the stories of several children who were abducted and forced into exploitative labor. Five-year-old Kevin (not his real name) was abducted from a public playground. According to his two playmates, a stranger had approached them and forced them to board a jeep. The two were able to escape, but Kevin was forcibly taken. Kevin’s mother reported the incident to their barangay hall and provided authorities with pictures of Kevin, but they failed to find the little boy.  After a month, someone spotted Kevin on the streets, dressed as a girl and begging for money. Kevin’s mother enlisted the help of two barangay watchmen to rescue Kevin, whose appearance had changed drastically. He had not bathed for some time and had lost a lot of weight. Kevin said that the man who took him would beat and curse him, and even made him drink urine. With the help of local authorities and barangay officials, Kevin’s abductor was arrested. Though he admitted to harboring Kevin for a month, he denied beating or forcing the boy to beg. The non-government organization Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT) says this is one of several ways that syndicates abduct and exploit children for profit.  The organization’s national coordinator, Maria Salome Ujano, says the some syndicates even disguise themselves as non-profit organizations. “Mayroong kaming alam na religious group [na] halimbawa nagrerecruit ng mga bata.  Ang sabi, pag-aaralin sila.  In the end, pagbebentahin sila ng mga products ng church.  Magrerecruit ng mga members. Tapos bibigyan lamang sila ng P20 na allowance. Tapos talagang gutom na gutom yung mga bata, hanggang maghapon sila na ganun,” explained Ujano. These cases are violations of the Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. Trafficking is the recruitment and transportation of minors and women for prostitution, pornography, forced labor, slavery, and other forms of exploitation. Watch this excerpt from "Reporter's Notebook" about Kevin’s experience: — Alyx Arumpac/PF, GMA News