A young mother faces possible criminal charges in the Philippines for a heinous crime tied to online cockfight betting, known locally as e-sabong. She gave up her young baby for less than $1,000 to settle a gambling debt.
E-sabong has become hugely popular in the Philippines. In-person cockfighting, sabong, has always had a place. But COVID-19 ushered in an era that allowed sabong wagers online. The activity has received renewed prominence lately as a result. It’s also in the news because over 30 people tied to the matches have mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
There are calls for sabong to be shut down. Now, those calls are going to get louder after one mother sold her baby to cover her e-sabong debt.
Paying Debts with Blood
Media outlet PhilStar Global reports that an unidentified woman from the Pinagbuhatan district of Pasig City needed to escape from her e-sabong gambling debt. The only alternative the 22-year-old felt she had was to give up her eight-month-old baby daughter.
She reportedly pawned her daughter last week, effectively canceling the debt. She even signed documents with the transfer to make it more legitimate.
In most cases, desperate attempts to climb out from underneath gambling debt involves tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not in this case. The frustrated and desperate mother gave up her child for PHP45,000 – about US$858.
She apparently had second thoughts after pawning her still-nursing child. She tried to contact the broker on Facebook, but ran into a brick wall. As a result, the mother subsequently appeared in an interview with media outlet Pasig News Today, where she sought assistance in recovering the baby.
That interview put her in the spotlight and her pleas went viral on social media. It also resulted in police deciding to step in and investigate the illegal transaction.
Human Trafficking and Child Abuse
The PNP’s Women and Children Protection Center is providing assistance in the case, hoping to reverse the sale. However, even if it is successful, the mother might still have to answer for her actions. She could face charges of child abuse, illegal child adoption, and human trafficking, and could still lose her infant daughter.
Illegal adoptions are still an issue in the Philippines. Channel News Asia ran an exposé in 2020, highlighting the issue and demonstrating how extensive it is. In some cases, mothers are willing to sell their babies for as little as around PHP10,500 (US$200).
The babies that are sometimes trafficked for adoption are sometimes an exception to this rule because they may find themselves in a loving home. Often, however, they find themselves being raised for a specific exploitative purpose, for example, to work on the family farm or in the family business,” says the UN’s International Labour Organization.
Most of these individuals live in rural, remote, and poor areas, where a family of four lives on $2 a day. They don’t know that what they’re doing is illegal. Even if they did, they feel that the money received will be more beneficial than another mouth to feed.
General speaking, human trafficking in the Philippines remains an issue. Although the Philippines has become more involved in eradicating the problem, it flourishes.
Non-profit Destiny Rescue asserts that between 60,000 and 100,000 children become victims of traffickers each year. Of these, most are between 14 and 17 years old, and many become sex slaves.
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