The economic impact of the pandemic has boosted this criminal racket, increasing the risk of human trafficking. Poor policing and weak government supervision have facilitated this trade with only a handful of cases prosecuted last year.
Manila (AsiaNews) – Illegal adoptions have increased in the Philippines as a result of the country’s troubled economy and reduced actions by police and other government agencies. At the same time, the cost of adoption is down, at least the money going to the children’s biological families.
Illegal adoptions were already a major issue before COVID-19 because of chronic poverty, limited education and lack of access to health care for mothers in some of the most deprived regions of the country.
The pandemic increased “supply” while reducing “demand” from would-be adoptive parents; this, in turn, raised the risk that infants and toddlers might end up in the hands of criminal groups, traded for the purpose of sexual exploitation, child labour and organ trafficking.
The price of a newborn dropped as low to US$ 100, with some exceptions such as origin and appearance; in this obscene trade, mixed race children are more valued, and can earn up to a thousand dollars.
Such trafficking relies on direct knowledge and informal networks that profit from unplanned pregnancies by young women more or less involved in prostitution.
This and other criminal activities have been boosted by the pandemic, growing needs and greater use of the Internet. Already in 2019, some 3,000 cases were reported each month outside the Philippines about the online sexual exploitation of Philippine children.
Adopting outside legal channels is obviously banned and punished with life imprisonment and heavy fines, but identifying those responsible is a hard task, made that much harder by the absence of agencies helping NGOs.
In 2021 the International Operations Division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) identified and vetted about ten cases of commercial adoption.
In the Philippines, almost two million children live without a family and are at high risk of exploitation; however, only a few thousand legal adoptions are done each year under the existing system, most notably because of the lack of resources and staff and reduced demand.
Sponsored by Senators Risa Hontiveros and Pia Cayetano, the Domestic Administrative Adoption Act came into effect last January to counter illegal adoptions.
It shortens the waiting period from six to nine months, streamlines adoption practices by the National Authority for Child Care, and no longer limits parenthood to consanguinity but recognises the desire to guarantee the well-being of adopted children.