The Department of Justice (DOJ) has approved the filing of criminal charges in court against a Nigerian and his Filipina live-in partner for buying an eight-month-old baby girl from her own mother who wanted to pay debts in “e-sabong” or online cockfighting.
In a statement on Tuesday, March 29, the DOJ’s Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) said the baby’s mother, who was identified as Rosemarie Gutierrez, will face preliminary investigation on the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Also set for investigation starting on April 11 is Kristine Joyce Esdrelon, who — based on the NBI complaint — acted as the “go between” in the sale of the baby last March 3.
The OPG said to be charged before the regional trial court (RTC) were Nigerian national Ifeanyi Bright Okoro, also known as “Maxwell Bright.” and his live-in partner Imelda P. Malibiran.
Cases will be filed against Okoro and Malibiran for child trafficking under Republic Act No. 7610, the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, and for kidnapping and failure to return a minor under Article 270 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
Okoro and Malibiran were arrested last March 22 by operatives of the NBI’s Anti-Human Trafficking Division (NBI-AHTRAD) in Sta. Cruz, Laguna where the baby was also rescued from the custody of the couple.
The NBI said in a previous statement that the rescue was made in response “to the appeal of the parents who sought the assistance of the NBI in locating their baby.”
After the rescue operation, the NBI presented Okoro and Malibiran for inquest before the DOJ and included Gutierrez and Esdredon as co-respondents in the complaints.
“Based on the evidence submitted by the NBI, the ‘Miracle Baby’ was sold on 03 March 2022 to a person she (Gutierrez) met through Facebook,” the OPG said.
“The transaction happened in Quezon City, where the respondent-mother received money in exchange for the baby in the amount of P45,000,” it added.
The OPG noted that the baby’s father, Anthony Ancheta, had been “keen on recovering his baby” and “immediately coordinated with the operatives to backtrack the incidents through CCTV (closed circuit television) footages.”
“The backtracking through CCTV was supported by the narration of Rolando Rubia, the taxi driver who picked up respondent-mother in Quezon City right after the sale of the baby,” it said.
“While on board the taxi, Rubia claimed that respondent-mother admitted to him that she sold her baby but was already having a change of heart,” it added.