By Charissa Luci-Atienza
TINGOG party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt Romualdez cited on Sunday the need to impose stiffer penalties against child smuggling following the arrest of American woman who attempted to smuggle a six-day-old baby boy out of the country last week.
The chairperson of the House Committee on the Welfare of Children called on her colleagues to look into the possibility of increasing the penalties against child smuggling.
“I am in favor of imposing stiffer penalties against child smuggling. I am optimistic that my colleagues in Congress will extend their full support to such initiative,” she said in a statement.
She also took the opportunity to laud the airport authorities, particularly the Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel who prevented the American woman from smuggling the baby out of the country. The baby was found hidden in her sling bag at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last Wednesday.
“Let me commend our airport authorities, especially the alert Immigration officers, for a job well-done. Their dedication to duty paid off and led to the arrest of a foreigner engaged in child smuggling,” Romualdez said.
“I cannot understand how a woman, a mother of five, could stuff a week-old child in a hand-carried luggage. Such cruelty is beyond comprehension,” she added.
She vowed to raise among her panel members the possibility of amending Republic Act (RA) No. 10364 to further increase the penalties against child smuggling.
The House leader noted that RA 10364 imposes the penalty of imprisonment of 15 years and a fine of not less than P500,000 but not more than P1 million to those found guilty of Attempted Trafficking in Persons.
Romualdez said imposing stiffer penalties against accomplices and other individuals who participate in the commission of the crime of child smuggling should also be looked into.
“A child is a blessing that needs to be protected and nurtured. Anyone who endangers the safety of the child deserves to be locked up behind bars,” she said.