Number of abandoned Filipino babies in Middle East on the rise
The reason? Women who get pregnant but can’t produce a marriage certificate face detention.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Cases of infants abandoned by their Filipina mothers after birth in hospitals in the Middle East are on the rise, an official from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said.
“Medyo dumarami (It’s slightly increasing),” Social Welfare Undersecretary Camilo Gudmalin told The Filipino Times (TFT) in a phone interview from Abu Dhabi. “There’s an increasing trend of abandoned children or what is called ‘love cases.’” (It’s increasing. There’s an increasing trend of abandoned children or what is called love cases.)
“Base sa interview namin, sila siguro’y may asawa sa Pilipinas, peronagka-ayusan dito, nagka-anak, di pwedeng ikasal at pwedeng makulong,” said Gudmalin, DSWD Undersecretary for Exigent Concerns. (Based on our interview, they must have a husband in the Philippines but found somebody here and had a child. They cannot get married because they can go to jail.)
“Kung wala ka kasing marriage certificate, kulong ka. Kaya yung iba, di pumupunta na ospital. Sa bahay na lang nanganganak. Siyempre, may nagkakakumplikasyon. May namamatay.” (Because here, if you don’t have a marriage certificate, you’ll go to jail. So some do not go to hospital for labor, they do it at home. Of course, sometimes there are complications. Some die.)
But some manage to give birth in hospitals where they are led straight to the delivery room without being asked for proper identification. “‘Pag emergency na kasi, inaadmit agad, putok na panubigan, eh,” he said. (Because during emergencies, they admit you immediately.)
“Ang ginagawa para ‘di makulong, after manganak sa ospital, aalis agad yung ina. Unang tumatakas ang tatay. ‘Yun ang ‘di maganda. Alam naman nila na ‘pag may asawa, ang ginagawa nila ay immoral; at kapag inabandon, lalo lang pinalalaki ang kasalanan,” Gudmalin added.
(What they do to avoid getting jailed is that the parents leave the hospital immediately after giving birth. The first to escape is the father. That’s not good because here, adultery is immoral, and when you abandon a child, you’re only making your sin worse.)
Gudmalin said that these parents usually leave the country while the baby stays and is cared for in the hospital. The embassy or consulate as well as the police are informed for documentation purposes.
Philippine Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Constancio R. Vingno Jr said he was saddened by the abandonment cases. “Alam mo naman ang tama at mali. Magkasabay nga lang kayo sa daan, may immorality issue. What more kung nabuntis ka?” he said. (You know what’s right and wrong. Just walking on the streets together here can already be seen as immoral, what more if you got pregnant?)
“It’s not allowed. Why risk being jailed? These are the things we should be mindful of – know the rules of the host country and abide by them.”
He said the embassy has one active abandonment case so far this year. “Kukuha daw ng marriage certificate ‘yung ina kasi siyempre hinahanapan ng proof of marriage; hindi na bumalik (sa ospital),” he said. (The mother said that she was going to get her marriage certificate when she was asked for one but never came back to the hospital.)
More in Dubai
The figure is much higher in Dubai, where Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes said they have up to 10 such cases recorded from January this year alone – including children of jailed parents.
There were 14 abandoned Filipino children in the UAE two years ago; last year, there were 7, according to records at the DSWD obtained by TFT. But Gudmalin said he was still updating this data.
Officials said the actual number could be higher as it does not include babies born in the flats and villas who have been left by their mothers with friends.
Cortes echoed Gudmalin’s earlier statement, saying that because they do not have a marriage certificate to present to hospitals, many opt to give birth at home.
But he also said this is a dangerous option. “Siyempre, may nagkakakumplikasyon. May namamatay. Marami tayong cases na ganyan,” he said, without releasing actual figures. (Of course there are complications and some die. We have a lot of cases like that.)
Gudmalin, who was on the UAE leg of his Middle East trip early May for an assessment of the situation of overseas Filipinos in the region, said the embassy and the consulate usually arrange for the baby’s release from hospital care.
Gudmalin said that because there is no way to go after the parents, the abandoned child is given up for adoption at the DSWD office in Manila after repatriation, “unless the biological parents show up and claim the child.”
“Inaayos dito ng Philippine Consulate General (PCG) ang papeles ng bata in coordination with DSWD Manila,” Cortes said, adding that PCG shoulders the cost. (The PCG fixes the child’s documents in coordination with DSWD Manila.)
Gudmalin said that parents usually don’t show up.
“Sinusubaybayan naman nila. Kung nasa magandang kalagayan naman ang kanilang anak, pinababayaan na nila kasi mayroon silang iba pang pananagutan,” he said. (But they monitor them. If the kid’s in good condition, they usually just leave them already because they have other commitments,)
Report an abandoned child to the police
So, what should you do if you come across an abandoned child?
Report the matter (or convince the foster parent to report) to the police so that proper assistance can be arranged.
This is according to lawyer Barney Almazar of Gulf Law who said that it is “in the best interest of the child to have his stay in the country legalized.”
Almazar said the abandoned child should be turned over to authorities because he is not registered and has no birth certificate. “Even our government can’t do anything unless the parents accept the punishment for sex outside marriage, which rarely happens,” he said.
Moreover, those who have abandoned children under their care can be held liable for certain UAE penal and immigration laws.
“The child is being deprived,” said Almazar. “It’s the child’s right to have a nationality, to have a passport, to go to school,” he said.
Isabel Sy Nillas, social welfare attaché for UAE and Qatar, said she does not condone the practice nor does she pass judgment on the erring mother. “They have their own reasons for doing so and it has to be respected,” she said.
But she encouraged mothers who abandoned their children to surrender to the DSWD to declare the child legally free for adoption. – Rappler.com
This story was republished with permission from The Filipino Times, a Dubai-bases news outfit.