Babies Case in Manila; Facing Prosecution

Date: 2008-12-19
Source: Straits Times

By Alastair McIndoe, Philippines Correspondent

A police complaint was filed against Ms Irene Low (left) and 12 others for allegedly running an unlicensed children's home that puts children up for adoption.

MANILA - SINGAPOREAN Irene Low Ai Lian, who is in custody in the Philippines, is expected to hear today whether she will be prosecuted for violations under the country's child welfare code or set free, her lawyer said.

Police filed a complaint yesterday against Ms Low, 50, who runs an adoption agency in Singapore, and 12 other suspects, all Filipinos, for allegedly running an unlicensed children's home that put children up for adoption.

Ms Low and the others were taken into custody on Monday in a raid on a house in the town of Jalajala, a two-hour drive south of Manila. They appeared before a state prosecutor at a court in the Philippine capital yesterday.

Ms Low's lawyer Hercules Cabug-Os said it was still being decided whether charges would be brought against his client. He said the prosecutor had told him that a decision would be made today.

Police found nine babies, aged between six months and one year, in the house while investigating another case. The house was not authorised to operate as a children's home, according to the municipal social welfare authorities.

The Straits Times spoke to Ms Low yesterday. She expressed anger that she had been portrayed as a trafficker by some media. 'I am not charged with trafficking - period,' she said, looking drained and her eyes welling with tears.

Ms Low, who arrived in the country earlier this month, said she was staying in the house to oversee its refurbishment and to distribute food and clothes to the infants while the home awaited licence by the authorities. 'I am not here to match babies (with couples), but as a donor to support the home,' she said.

The owner of the house Voltaire Gellido, a former mayor, said the children's home recently moved to Jalajala from a nearby town as some of the children had fallen sick. The former home, called Hope for Homeless Angels, was licensed, he said. But the new one - re-named Jalajala Home for the Needy - was waiting for what he called 'exit clearances' from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

On the licensing of the home, Ms Low said: 'I was misguided. I trusted a lot of people and I won't be so gullible again.' She refused to elaborate beyond saying that she had no complaints against Mr Gellido.

Ms Low said she had helped an American couple trying to adopt a Filipino baby from another children's home.

The police complaint falls under violations of the child welfare code. Mr Cabug-Os said the penalties for violating its provisions were a jail term of four to six months and a fine of 500 pesos (S$15).


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