Girl rescued from Swedish national to stay in custody of social workers
THE 9-YEAR-OLD girl who was rescued from a Swedish national at the Cebu port last month has to remain in the custody of social workers.
Regional Trial Court Judge Olegario Sarmiento of Branch 24 yesterday denied a request to turn over the girl to her relatives.
Jesus Mitra Jr. and Mary Jane Mitra-Evangelista of Masbate province filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, after Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, who heads the Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC), did not release the girl to their custody.
A petition for habeas corpus is a special civil action asking the court to issue an order to bring before the court the person petitioned.
Jesus, who is Aurora barangay captain in Unson, Masbate, said he was the girls uncle. Mary Jane said she was the girl’s elder sister.
Magpale said the two failed to present documents that would prove their relationship to the girl.
During the hearing, Sarmiento explained that perceived victims of child abuse can’t be released to relatives other than their parents or grandparents.
The girl’s parents have not yet shown up since she was placed under the custody of social workers.
“It was very fair of the judge to demand a court order designating them as guardians, which they could not produce,” Magpale said.
The judge granted them 15 minutes to talk with the girl.
The next hearing is on March 8.
The girl, a native of Masbate, was seen with 67-year-old Conny Lagstrem at Pier 4 in Cebu City last Feb. 21.
Lagstrem, who is out on P320,000 bail, was arrested and charged for violation of Republic Act 7610 or the Anti-Child Abuse Law, which prohibits a person from keeping the company of a minor 12 years old or younger unless the child is a relative or has bonds arising from custom, tradition or legal obligations.
Magpale has a pending request with the Bureau of Immigration to stop Lagstrem from leaving the country.
Meanwhile, Provincial Administrator Eduardo Habin assigned two Capitol Security Unit (CSU) guards to escort Provincial Social Welfare and Development (PSWD) head Marivic Garces.
Garces, who is part of the technical working group working on child and women trafficking cases, recently received threats through text messages.
She said she believes the threats were related to her work with the PWC.
Magpale said police escorts were also provided for assistant city prosecutor Lolita Lomanta, another TWG member.
Cebu Provincial Police Office chief Senior Supt. Patrocinio Commendador approved Magpale’s request to provide police escorts for Lomanta.
Magpale told reporters yesterday that Lomanta feels “comfortable” with the presence of the police escorts./reporter ador vincent mayor and correspondent carmel loise matus
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