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Friday, July 19, 2019

Woman arrested for stealing baby from Cebu hospital

AFTER more than 30 hours apart, Jonathan Celadenia was reunited with his three-day-old son Prince Niño on Tuesday night, an hour after a police team found the baby and the woman who took him from a public hospital.

Mao gyud ni akong bata. Mao gyud ning nawnga (This is my baby. I know this face),” Celadenia said. “Nagpasalamat ko sa Ginoo nga nakit-an na akong bata (Thank God my baby was found).”

The reunion happened inside the office of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Central Visayas past 8:40 p.m.





An hour earlier, a team from CIDG led by Senior Inspector Delfin Bontuyan, the chief investigator, arrested call center agent Melissa Alilin Londres, 26, in the rented house of her boyfriend Philip Winfred Almeria, 25, in Sitio Fatima, Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.

Related article: Baby stolen in Cebu hospital

The operatives walked downhill 500 meters from the main road to reach the house. Londres did not resist arrest and dealt with the police calmly.

A teary-eyed Jonathan later tried to hurt Londres, but the police officers prevented him from doing so. He stressed she was the woman, dressed in white scrubs, who took his baby from the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) last Monday afternoon.

Nganong imong gikuha akong bata, ‘day (Why did you take my baby)?” he asked. “Ayaw ingon ana, ‘day, kinabuhi imong gikuha, ‘day (Don’t do this again. Don’t mess with another person’s life).”

Londres stared at him but didn’t answer.

Londres, who hails from Tipolo, Mandaue City, denied stealing the baby, saying she gave birth to the boy inside a taxi outside PC Hills in Lahug at 11 a.m. last Monday.

The taxi driver, she said, brought her to a clinic, also in Lahug, where a doctor cut the umbilical cord. She said she named the boy Phil Winfred, after her boyfriend. She also said she had decided to go to a hospital by herself without waking her boyfriend up “kay dili mi okay (because things between us aren’t okay).” They have been together for two years.

She said she had expected to give birth on January 8.

Facebook post

Nganong kwestiyonon man ko sa akong silingan nga kahibawo man akong silingan nga buntis ko(Why should our neighbors question my having a baby when they knew I was pregnant)?” she said.

Almeria, who was also taken into custody, told the arresting officers that Londres did not give birth last Monday morning. He said he also did not know whether she had suffered a miscarriage.

The CIDG tracked down Almeria’s residence based on a tip from photojournalist Alan Tangcawan. (Disclosure: Tangcawan is a photo correspondent of Sun.Star Superbalita Cebu and Sun.Star Cebu.)

Tangcawan had posted about the kidnapping on his Facebook page “Utan Bisaya”. One of the couple’s neighbors saw the post, as well as photos on the Sun.Star Superbalita and Sun.Star Cebu front pages on Tuesday, showing a woman wearing white scrubs and carrying an infant. (The hospital provided access to their security camera footage.)

The neighbor told Tangcawan that Londres arrived last Monday afternoon with the baby, but that their neighbors were confused because they heard she had miscarried.

Senior Superintendent Marlon Tayaba, CIDG Central Visayas regional director, said that Londres will be charged with kidnapping, a non-bailable offense.

Apology

When told that the penalty, if she is found guilty, would be life imprisonment, Londres apologized.

Mangayo na lang kog pasaylo kay ingon man mo nga mapriso ko (Now that you’ve told me I might go to jail, I will apologize),” she said.

Jonathan identified Londres as the woman who took his son, but she denied it.

Jonathan had sought help from the CIDG, National Bureau of Investigation, and Cebu City Police Station 2 after his son disappeared.

He earlier said that a woman approached him and his wife inside the hospital, saying that the infant needed to be vaccinated against dengue fever. Neither parent could go with her; he wanted to work on their Philhealth papers, while she was still too weak to get up.

The investigators inspected VSMMC’s closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and said they will look into what lapses the VSMCC’s security officers committed.

Hours before the baby’s rescue, Cebu City Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella reminded hospitals, especially the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC), to tighten their security.

Surveillance

He suggested screening or checking anyone who leaves the hospital with an infant or child.

Labella also reminded all public and private hospitals to make sure there are CCTV cameras in critical areas of the hospital and that these are working.

“We should be more cautious, and they should not take for granted people who go in and out of the hospital. They should be checked,” he told reporters Tuesday.

In CCMC, which still occupies a temporary building and where some wards are still in makeshift structures, he said the hospital staff should pay close attention to people who go in and out of the nursery and the pediatrics ward.

If naa man gani magdala ug bata, bisag kinsa pa siguro kinahanglan hinglon gyud na labi pa if it came from the nursery. Sa atong CCMC, our hospital personnel should be watchful labi pa in the area sa nursery kay ang bata sayon ra kayo bitbiton (Anyone seen carrying a baby, especially those leaving a nursery, should be checked. It’s so easy to take a baby away),” Labella said in his news conference.

In a statement on Tuesday, the VSMMC said that the hospital management will strictly require workers to wear identification cards and proper uniforms, following what happened.

The management is also conducting an internal investigation to determine if the suspect had any accomplices inside the hospital.

Hospital officials offering a P100,000 reward to anyone who can help them identify the woman who abducted Prince Niño Celadania.

Transfer

In a press conference, Dr. Sophia Mancao, assistant director of the Department of Health (DOH) Central Visayas, said they have also ordered an investigation on the incident, including VSMMC’s security measures.

Dr. Mancao said that based on their initial investigation, the hospital didn’t commit any lapses in relation to the implementation of hospital policies and protocol.

But she urged VSMMC to come up with stricter security measures. She also didn’t discount the possibility of an inside job.

Mancao explained that the lack of security could be related to the recent transfer of VSMMC’s perinatal unit from the main hospital building to the second floor of the St. Arnold Janssen Trauma Center.

The old perinatal unit has been under renovation since October 21 last year.

As of Tuesday, VSMMC has 1,042 patients being handled by more than 1,000 employees.

Mancao said that the incident will serve as a “wake-up call” for all hospitals and medical facilities to boost their security.
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