It is called trafficking in unborn babies.
Pregnant Filipino women have been recruited to travel overseas legally as tourists then sell their newborns to waiting adoptive parents, the Department of Social Welfare and Development said on Wednesday.
Social Welfare Undersecretary Alicia Bala disclosed the newest form of child trafficking at the 11th Global Consultation on Child Welfare Services in Makati City.
Bala said that two cases had so far been reported—one in Austria two years ago and another in Malta last year.
Speaking about the latest case in Malta, Bala said: “The mother who’s pregnant [was] sponsored to go to that place with the intent of having the child adopted.”
“This is a form of trafficking… Our attention was called by Malta authorities,” she told reporters.
The mother has returned to the country but her child is now undergoing procedure for adoptive parents to keep the baby in custody.
“This is just one instance but, who knows, there may be other cases that are not brought to our attention. It is a prearranged plan of giving birth there, then they give the baby up. They don’t keep the baby because there is already that intention to have the baby adopted abroad,” Bala said.
As the mothers are able to exit the country legally, such cases are hard to detect unless reported by the receiving country, Bala said.
“You can’t stop anyone from traveling. There’s no reason for immigration agents to be suspicious about why a pregnant woman is going overseas. Maybe there’s a facilitator here,” Bala said.
Philippine system worth emulating
The report surfaced after the Philippines overcame its status as among nations in the United States’ Tier 2 human trafficking watch list.
Between 400 and 500 Filipino children, among them orphans and abandoned children, are adopted by overseas parents under a Philippine system managed by the Inter-Country Adoption Board.
Following a careful process of screening adoptive parents and matching candidate children, most Filipino kids are legally adopted in homes in the United Sates, Canada, France and other European countries.
Jennifer Degeling, representative from The Hague, cited the Philippine’s inter-country adoption system as one that other nations could emulate.
She said well-trained professionals were handling the process, screening parents and matching prospective babies to homes that would best provide them their needs.
“You have managed to develop a very balanced relationship with countries who adopt your children, so I think the Philippines has retained control,” Degeling noted.
“Not as in other countries, here you have very professional people looking at all of the needs of the child and look for a foreign family that look after the best interest of the child,” she added.
Child welfare officials from Cambodia and Nepal have expressed interest in replicating the Philippines’ overseas adoption system, officials said.