Is Malaybalay a pick up point for human organ trafficking?

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News Dispatch/11 October) A report about the alleged dumping Tuesday of bodies of two children in Brgy. Kalasungay believed to be victims of child organ trafficking caused a stir here again prompting schools to issue warnings to teachers, parents, and pupils.

The city police have denied the incident citing lack of confirmation but the president of the Malaybalay City Federation of Parents Teachers Associations said it should serve as an eye opener to police to do its job better and for parents not to be complacent.

Antonieta Reburiano, the school principal of Malaybalay City Central School, the biggest in Malaybalay City, called the attention of her teachers, parents and pupils against the alleged perpetrators. She has alerted security guards about the report.

All of the school’s 4,678 pupils are all accounted for, she added, as she checked first if the alleged victims are from her school.

In Bukidnon State University grade school, teachers started to panic in the morning when a senior colleague broke the news about the text messages being forwarded on the supposed incident.  In the afternoon, the teachers said they received another text message that the bodies were already brought to a local funeral parlor.

Police belies incidents

The recent spread of text messages on the alleged abductions is a repeat of another wave of reports in June 2011, according to Supt. Erwin Bayani Meneses, Malaybalay City police chief.

But Meneses belied the reports saying these were all “baseless and misleading.”

“There is no truth about the reports (of abductions for organ trafficking) in the city. There is no truth about it in Northern Mindanao,” Meneses added.

Warlika Sadang, Malaybalay police women and child protection desk officer, said she police personnel went to check the area in Kalasungay alleged to be the alleged ‘dump site.’
“But they found nothing there. There is no such incident,” she said.
As soon as they received a report about it, Meneses said he immediately validated with the city’s Dial 117 unit who immediately verified with units in the community.  He said there were no reports in Kalasungay about the alleged dumping. He added that there was no confirmation about the incident, even from the barangay government.

The funeral parlor also denied the report that the bodies were brought to their establishment. Noel Talde, office staff of Villanueva Funeral Homes said there was no truth about the report. He said on Tuesday, they received around 20 queries verifying the report.

Dr. Melirose Deticio of the City Health Office said there is no report or record of the alleged deaths in their department. She said they are also looking at the cases. She noted that organ donation has a proper process.

What’s the real score?
Bukidnon News sources alleged that the police may only want to hide the confirmations because it reflects their performance. Meneses has denied this.

SPO1 Arvin Chaves, desk officer at the Malaybalay City police station on October 11, said not a single blotter was recorded on the incident.

Meneses said they were able to prove that the persistent reports were wrong.  He cited the report of a black Fortuner car, which was alleged by text messages in June 2011 to be picking up victims. Meneses said they found out upon verification at the Land Transportation Office that the plate number cited in the reports is attached to an Elf truck from Cagayan de Oro, which just came out from the repair shop.

Sadang said since the reports of the alleged abductions first caused a stir in June, they have received several complaints from parents who reported missing children only to report again later that they just went to relatives due to misunderstanding. Meneses said the parents reported to police for fear that the children have been kidnapped.

Psychological effects
This, Sadang added, brought psychological impact on the children who heard about the reports. Children may be afraid to play or do other things they are supposed to. She said it is also stressful to the parents and teachers.

The children’s rights to live a good life, to play or study are also violated in this atmosphere, she added.

On the other hand, Meneses said the reports positive effect is that parents become more responsible about the safety of their children.  But he cited that still some parents resort to the desperate measure of using the fear to discipline their children.  Other parents become “over vigilant” and paranoid when they report suspicion of vehicles allegedly surveying their house to prey on children.

Peace and order problem
Virginia Flores, Malaybalay city social welfare officer, denied receiving reports of abductions. But she said this should mean the police should do its work of investigation and crime busting.

“This is a peace and order problem. The police must ferret out the truth about this as that’s their job,” she added.
Flores admitted that indeed the reports caused fear among children. But she said, the allegations of kidnapping for organs, is only one problem among many that the police must be able to address. She cited the culture of impunity where there is lack of progress in many crime cases.

“This emboldens others (criminals) to do more because they might be able to get away with it,” she added.

Richard Macas, Malaybalay City Federation of Parents Teachers Associations, said indeed the reports sow fear among the children. But even if the reports are passed only through text messaging, the abductions are possible that’s why it should mean the police should step up security.

He said it must be investigated thoroughly to ferret out the truth about the reports.

Meneses said they have never discounted the reports as they have “always exerted effort whenever reports reach us about it.” He encouraged the public to always check with the police first before spreading rumors about alleged abductions.

The law
The Philippines enacted Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2003 with an implementing rules and regulations passed only in 2009.

The ban on trafficking of persons for the purpose of removal or sale of organs is contained in Section 3(a) of Republic Act 9208. However, the particular section of the law has not been fully implemented due to lack of implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

The IRR was formulated by a technical working group chaired by the Department of Justice and composed of Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Society of Nephrology, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Society of Transplant Surgeons, Philippine Urological Association, National Transplant Ethics Committee, and Kidney Foundation of the Philippines.

Violators face up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine between P1 million and P2 million.(Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)

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