SOCO: Organs for sale?
Headless. Naked. Intestines exposed.
This is the gruesome state of a young boy’s body placed inside a green tub as shown in a photo that has been circulating in social networking sites. The photo became so viral that a concerned citizen even tagged ABS-CBN SOCO’s Facebook account on the image.
The photo, allegedly, was a warning to all children who went out at night. Because rumor has it that this was done by a syndicate who kidnap children, take out their organs, and sell them to people needing organ transplants.
Because of the ghastly state of the boy in the said photo, it raised a climate of fear among the public particularly among the residents of Valenzuela and Malabon. Because almost around the same time that the photo has been circulating, reports of kidnapping in the area piled up.
A warning? This photo has been circulating around social networking sites, raising fear among the public.
11-year old Ian, whose identity shall be concealed for security reasons, was one of those who were almost victimized. According to Ian’s mother, Gladys Rojas, on the afternoon of March 4, 2011, she received news that her son has been kidnapped.
“’Yong mga bali-balita dati dito na tungkol sa mga kidney na ibinibenta nga raw ‘pag natanggalan ng lamang loob, ‘yon po ‘yong nasa isip ko,” Gladys says. “Naisip ko baka hinati na ‘yong katawan niya.”
Fortunately, Ian survived.
According to the 11-year-old, he was walking in Karuhatan, Valenzuela when two men wearing bonnets grabbed him and hauled him into a white van. When they reached Caloocan, the men parked the van and left him alone. That’s when he saw the opportunity to escape.
“Noong bumaba po sila, may nakita po akong bote sa baba tapos po binasag ko po ‘yong salamin,” Ian tells ABS-CBN SOCO. “Binuksan ko po tapos tumakbo na ako. Sumakay po ako ng jeep tapos bumaba po ako sa may overpass.” He then ran to his school and told his teachers what happened.
Re-enactment. Ian says he was grabbed by men wearing black bonnets and hauled him into a white van.
Ten days later, on March 14, 2011, a similar incident occurred in Panghulo, Malabon. Airah, not her real name, was on her way home when it all happened.
“Galing po kasi ako noon ng palengke,” Airah tells ABS-CBN SOCO. “Tapos noong malapit na po ako sa school, ‘yong van po, ‘pag mahina ‘yong lakad ko, mahina din po ‘yong takbo. ‘Pag tumakbo na po ako ng isang beses, bumilis na [rin] po ‘yong takbo.”
“Tapos noong huminto po ako, may tumalon pong lalaki,” she further adds. “Tumakbo na po ako tapos ‘yong lalaki pumasok po ulit sa van.”
When Airah’s sister, Irene Mandadaro, found out about this, panic engulfed her. “Natakot po ako,” she says. “Kasi balitang-balita na po ‘yong tungkol sa nangunguha ng bata.”
Ian and Airah were lucky. They escaped the attempted kidnapping. But the boy in the picture wasn’t as fortunate.
With all the kidnapping reports and the photo of the boy circulating in cyberspace, questions remained—who are the people behind the kidnappings? And what’s the real story behind the picture?
The truth behind the photo
In order to find out the identity of the boy in the picture, ABS-CBN SOCO tried to gather information from various police stations all around Metro Manila—Navotas, Caloocan, Rizal, and Tondo. The team even coordinated with the Laguna, Batangas, and Bulacan PNP.
But none of them had any information about the boy in the photo. In fact, there was no record of a child dying because of organ smuggling.
“During conferences, may time kami na nag-uusap-usap kung ano ‘yung mga crime trends na nangyayari sa area namin para kung ganun, kung may nangyayari talaga dun, eh di magawan namin agad ng plano dun sa area namin para hindi mangyari,” Malabon City chief of police Superintendent Cornelio Barrios tells ABS-CBN SOCO. “Meron bang nireport? Wala.”
“Ating inisa-isa ‘yung sinasabing nawala sa ganitong lugar o batang nakaburol sa ganitong area at siya nga ba ay biktima ng sabi nila—natagpuang wala nang mata at wala nang lamang loob,” he further adds. “Wala pong napatunayan na ganung insidente.”
ABS-CBN SOCO also showed the photo to a medico-legal expert and according to Superintendent. Emmanuel Aranas of the Camp Crame Crime Laboratory, it was possible that the photo was fake.
“Parang mahirap paniwalaan ang larawang ito,” he says. “Kasi may proseso para sa medical procedures sa pagtanggal o pag-transplant sa mga internal organ. Maselan kasi ang mga organ na ito. Kapag na-expose nang matagal, maaaring ma-contaminate at hindi na mapakikinabangan ng pagbibigyan. Sa litratong ito, very obvious na walang proseso at mali ang paraan.”
ABS-CBN SOCO also consulted a photo expert who concurred the picture was manipulated.
But if this was the case, what then was the motive of the men driving the white van who tried to kidnap Ian and Airah?
The authorities continued their investigation on the syndicate behind the alleged organ trafficking. They traced the areas where stories about a white van and men in bonnets were circulating but could not find any evidence that they existed.
“Hanggang ngayon, wala namang cited na grupo na gumagamit ng white van,” Supt. Barrios says.
Until finally, they were able to trace the origin of the stories—Tarlac province.
“Bumiyahe ako doon,” Supt. Barrios recalls. “Nagtataka ako bakit ang mga tao, alas sais pa lang gusto nang umuwi. Pati adult hindi lang mga bata. So tinanong ko kung bakit. Sabi nila, may kulto raw na nangunguha ng mga tao at iaaalay bilang sacrifice.”
And, according to the authorities, this story passed on until it eventually evolved into the story of a syndicate kidnapping children for their organs.
“Ang nakikita ko po dito, because of the previous urban legend that we call it sometimes, people overreact to the situation before studying it,” Supt. Barrios says.
What then was the explanation behind Ian and Airah’s very similar experience—men in bonnets, white van, and attempts at kidnapping them?
Aside from Ian and Airah, according to the authorities, there were 12 reported cases of kidnapping in Malabon and 6 in Valenzuela. But in all cases, every one of the victims escaped.
“Ngayon, sabi ko, if I were the kidnapper and I had 12 chances to kidnap different individuals and I’m in my prime youth, I could overpower a child and get him,” Supt. Barrios says. “Pero bakit doon sa 12 or 11 incidents na ‘yong, wala siyang nakuha?”
The authorities believed that there might be a group of men using the urban legend to create a climate of fear among the public.
But social worker Ma. Kristina Jayme has a different explanation. “Noong unang-unang lumabas itong urban legend, actually paulit-ulit na lang ‘tong urban legend na ito, nagkaroon ng mass hysteria,” she says. “Paranoid ‘yong mga parents as well as ‘yong mga bata.”
Kristina says the story was repeated so often that it created an impression on the children leading them to believe that it was actually happening. “Na-inject na sa kanya ‘yong trauma,” she says. “Psychologically, malaki ang magiging epekto nito sa bata lalo na kung walang nagpapaliwanag sa kanya na adult.”
Meanwhile, the authorities appealed to the public that whoever had proof that these kidnappings and organ smuggling are real should go to them in order for them to be able to take action.
They also have a message for the parents. “Be responsible parents. Educate your children, sabihin ninyo ‘yong totoo,” Supt. Barrios says. “Huwag nating gamitin ‘yong mga kwento para takutin ‘yong mga anak natin. Ang mga bata ngayon, matatalino at dapat magabay sila sa tamang landas.” April 13, 2011