Karapatan demands turnover of baby abducted in Negros by 79th IB to grandparents

Human rights alliance Karapatan assailed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for blocking efforts by an elderly couple to gain custody of their grandchild, who was abducted by soldiers two years ago.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said the child’s grandmother Erlinda Tejome Salino and her husband had gone through the necessary legal procedures, including adoption proceedings, to claim their now 2-year old grandson from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) but have been given the run-around. According to reports, the 2-year old is the child of alleged NPA couple Ka Peeta and Ka Jandy.

The case of the Salinos’ grandchild was brought to light as the Commission on Human Rights began investigating another case in Caraga region where the military abducted and took hostage the infant daughter of an NPA couple.

Palabay said their office received reports that the Salino child was abducted as a 2-month old infant on January 13, 2021 after elements of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) swooped down on the house of spouses Marlyn and Edwin Madin in Hacienda Ambulong, Brgy. San Fernando, Talisay City. The soldiers also seized food stuff and personal belongings such as cellphones, baby garments and toiletries found in the house. The 79th IB later claimed to have “recovered” an “NPA baby” in the operation, as if the child were a war trophy, Palabay said.

The baby’s grandparents have been trying to gain custody of the child, first with the Talisay City CSWD, but have been referred to the Calatrava MSWD and later to the Escalante CSWD, only to be told in November 2022 that the release of the baby will be decided only after “top officials” of the AFP and DSWD confer on the matter, said Palabay.

Palabay decried the brazen violations of International Humanitarian Law committed by the AFP, NTF-ELCAC and government social welfare officials in using an innocent child as a pawn in their psywar and counter-insurgency schemes.

She likewise slammed the various forms of harassment, threats and intimidation suffered by the grandparents since they began efforts to claim the baby. “They were repeatedly visited by intelligence officers and military men, asking for the whereabouts of their daughter and her surrender, among others. In addition,” said Palabay, “the grandfather has not returned to his job at the Escalante LGU due to fear of NTF-ELCAC and 79th IB personnel. The elderly couple luckily survived and escaped a military raid on their temporary domicile,” she said.

Palabay demanded the immediate turnover of the subject child to his grandparents, who are his rightful custodians. “The State should put a stop to the despicable practice of abducting children of NPA guerrillas just to coerce their parents to surrender.”