DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 November) — For bringing along three boys who he tied together with a rappelling rope, an Australian national was held and questioned by the anti-trafficking personnel at the Davao International Airport on Tuesday morning.
It turned out that the children are from Bingcungan, Tagum City, and their mother is working at the church where the foreigner, identified only as Mr. Cholin is a member, Mayor Sara Duterte who chairs the Davao City Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, said in a text message.
“The parents have (issued) authority (to travel) and other documents for the children to travel. Our airport social workers and airport police contacted the mother and she confirmed that she gave the children the authority to travel,” the mayor said.
Maria Luisa Bermudo, head of the City Social Service and Development Office (CSSDO), in her text message to the mayor, said Mr. Cholin was held for two hours at the airport by the Regional Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking-Integrated Action Network—Davao International Airport (RIACTION-DIA).
Bermudo said RIACTION-DIA also interviewed over the phone the boys’ mother, who was able to answer detailed questions about them.
To make sure it was not trafficking, the airport policewoman on duty, PO3 Rose Cabailo called up their counterpart Aviation Security Group to meet the children at the airport in Manila and to ensure that the mother would personally receive them, Bermudo added.
Both the mother and her husband, whose names were not identified, are employees of Cholin, Bermudo said, adding it was the second time that the Australian escorted the children to Manila.
The official said Cholin tied the children together because their mother said so as they were playful and might get lost.
But the airport police and the unidentified social worker called Cholin’s attention upon seeing the situation of the children as it was a violation of their rights, Duterte said.
The mayor said the boys were placed in the airport’s child minding center to play while the escort was being interviewed and the airport social worker contacted the mother.
“Later, the airport RIACTION allowed the travel,” she added.
RIACTION-DIA put up a help desk at the airport to apprehend traffickers and intercept or rescue trafficked victims, based on Republic Act 9208, or the Anti-trafficking in Persons Law.
Tess Pioncio, CSSDO focal person on trafficking, said the help desk has social workers from the CSSDO and Department of Social Welfare and Development, and representatives from the Bureau of Immigration, Philippine National Police, Aviation Security Group, and Civil Aviation Authority, among others.
She said the Children’s Welfare Code of Davao City prohibits children below 15 years old from traveling alone or with persons other than their parents or guardians. Otherwise, she added, they are required to secure a permit to travel.
To issue a permit to travel, the CSSDO verifies requirements such as birth certificate of the minor, barangay clearance, written parental consent as attested by the barangay captain, and identification cards of the minor and the accompanying adult. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)