Babies are not for sale – INQUIRER EDITORIAL

June 03, 2024 - 08:31 AM

PHOTO: Department of Justice interior showing seal STORY: Babies are not for sale – INQUIRER EDITORIAL file photo

[This editorial was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on June 3, 2024.]

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) shared the good news that at least 500 Facebook accounts closely linked to the black market sale of babies had finally been taken down. The DOJ is not celebrating this feat, however, as it knows only too well that there are many more out there that are actively facilitating the outright sale of babies — in some cases by the parents themselves — to aspiring parents for some P50,000 each.

“[The online sale of babies] is still prevalent. There are still many accounts that have to be closed down,” said Justice Assistant Secretary Jose Dominic Clavano IV, adding that the Marcos administration deems the trafficking of these babies so abhorrent that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself wants to be involved.

“The president believes the Philippines will not progress if it has such a problem,” Clavano said.

READ MORE: Philippine Daily Inquirer editorials on 

Popular platform

As such, the DOJ, through its cybercrime division, has stepped up discussions with the National Bureau of Investigation, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, and Facebook owner Meta, which it believes can and must do more to rid its site of these online sites enabling the sale and illegal adoption of babies.

Clavano said Meta should have more “initiatives, programs, and mechanisms to ensure the widespread protection of children online.”

The government had in fact been trying to convince Meta to ramp up their monitoring since 2020 when social media emerged as a popular platform for the clandestine baby trade. There have been some results as seen in the taking down of an increasing number of sites, but still far from expectations.

To help compensate, the DOJ has also enlisted the help of the Filipino public to immediately report illegal activity that may surface on their feed. But while these initiatives are laudable and should be encouraged, the government should double down on putting the actual criminals behind bars to send a clear and unequivocal signal that these horrendous activities will not be tolerated.

Anonymity of the internet

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla set the right tone when he said that “children are the most precious treasures of society meant to be fully protected by law.”

“They are the best investments of today for a better tomorrow. We will never allow anyone to exploit them in any way,” Remulla added.

The DOJ has taken a decisive step in this direction after filing qualified trafficking and child exploitation charges against 29-year-old Ma. Chariza Dizon, who tried to sell her 8-day-old baby boy for P50,000 to P90,000 with the help of a government employee, Arjay Malabanan, who acted as her broker. The boy has since been turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development while Dizon and Malabanan are facing a life sentence if found guilty of qualified trafficking and child exploitation.

And the reach of the law should extend not just to the peddlers but to the buyers, too, as they are participants in the trafficking scheme that use the anonymity of the internet to carry out their nefarious deeds.

Black market

The genuine desire to be parents is not an excuse because there are legal ways to adopt a child.

The National Authority for Child Care (NACC) of the DSWD has already issued the reminder: “We enjoin the public not to patronize or engage in adoption via online … This is trafficking in persons and you will be held liable under the rule of law.”

That said, as the DOJ, its allied agencies, and the court system work on the quick dispensation of justice, the DSWD should do its part in quelling this practice by making it easier for Filipinos to legally adopt a child. The inordinate delay, kilometric red tape, and redundant processes prompt would-be parents to eschew the formal system and instead turn to the black market — whether offline or online — where there are parents who are unfortunately all too willing to sell their children to both Filipinos and foreigners for easy money.

Fortunately, the DSWD has recognized these serious shortcomings and has committed to work together with the NACC, its attached agency with jurisdiction over adoption matters, to streamline the child adoption process in the Philippines.

Legal adoption

“If our network on alternative child care and adoption is strong, then in effect, we ease out the potential illegal market out there,” said Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian during the National Congress on Adoption and Alternative Child Care of the NACC.

The DOJ and the DSWD must not fail to execute these avowed moves to tighten the detection and enforcement system and improve the legal adoption process. Failure to do so will mean that the online sale of innocent babies will continue to flourish unchecked in cyberspace.

Social media sites that are taken down will just be easily replaced and thus babies — even those who are yet to be born — will continue to be bought and sold, no different from popular products traded online every day.

TAGS: babies for sale, column, PDI Editorial, Philippine Daily Inquirer, babies for sale, column, PDI Editorial, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.