'Abuse' kills 7-year-old boy

POLICE are investigating the death of a 7-year-old boy initially reported as a suicide.

Police Colonel Allen Rae Co, Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) city director, said the victim died on May 30 due to strangulation and not by hanging as reported by his aunt and uncle. They are now the main suspects in the child’s death.

“We have to seek and get justice for this child. Nag-start kasi ito, we received a report na meron nagpakamatay na 7-year-old na batang lalaki na right from the start medyo suspicious ang circumstances as they narrated it,” Co narrated.

Police said based on sworn statements of two witnesses supported by photos gathered by investigators, injuries and bruises can be seen on the child’s neck, shoulder, arm, leg and buttocks, which indicate a pattern of abuse.

The medical report by Notre Dame Hospital revealed the child died due to hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, secondary to traumatic brain injury due to strangulation, confirming suspicions on earlier reports of the child’s guardians.

Cases of murder, violations of Republic Act 7610 (Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act) and Republic Act 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act) with obstruction of justice will be filed against the two suspects.

“Pilit nila tinago ang nangyari sa kaawa- awang batang ito,” Co said.

The suspects have yet to be in the custody of the police, saying it would be ideal for the family to file a case as well.

Details of the case

Police relayed that the child stayed with his biological aunt, uncle and another child cousin in a rented apartment in Ambiong, Baguio City while his mother is working overseas.

In affidavits by two neighbors-turned-witnesses on May 30, they attested that between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., they did not see any persons passing the stairs going to the basement where the victim lived.

Both witnesses said they were inside their apartment and it is easy to see if people passed by, as the only way to reach the basement is to pass the staircase.

The witnesses claimed they heard the child victim crying on the day of his death before the discovery of his unconscious body. They also heard the child’s aunt scolding and whipping him a few hours before.

“After a few minutes, they saw the aunt ascending the stairs crying. Moments later, her husband was already carrying the boy unconscious, then the couple rushed the victim to the hospital,” the police report said.

Refusing an autopsy

Co said the guardians were not cooperative when police asked for an autopsy to be conducted, citing tradition and cultural beliefs. They proceeded to the Province of Ifugao with the body of the victim for internment without travel orders as the city was still under general community quarantine at that time.

Co added the group was intercepted by police at a checkpoint in Bokod, Benguet, and was then obliged to sign an order to proceed with the autopsy when they arrived in Ifugao.

The city director added police coordination continued as the family evaded autopsy requests, which pushed the BCPO to coordinate with both the Baguio City and Ifugao Provincial Prosecutor’s Office to push for the proper autopsy to be conducted.

Medico-legal finding of Police Captain Reynaldo Dave Jr., M.D., shows head and neck injuries as well as several abrasions and contusions on the chest, extremities and abdomen.

The city police director said the mother of the victim has been informed and briefed on the incident including the injuries of the child prior to his death.

A call to report abuse

Co urged the public to report any cases of abuse to help bring justice to victims.

Police reports said the statements of the two witnesses run contrary to the testimony of the child’s aunt and uncle and attested the child had been abused repeatedly.

The guardians claimed on the day of the boy’s death, they left the house with their child to buy rice and left the victim alone in the apartment. When the family returned home and called the boy to eat, the victim was found unconscious in an apparent suicide.

The family then rushed the boy to the hospital.

Co said the report saying the 7-year-old boy committed suicide was from the start suspicious as postmortem examination results show the boy suffered a hematoma, abrasions on his arms, arms, legs, and buttocks, indicative to patterns of abuse.

Community helplines

Doctor Faridah Kristi Wetherick, the project coordinator of Saint Louis University (SLU) Sunflower Child and Youth Wellness Center, said with the stay-at-home orders of the local government during the community quarantine, different types of child abuse may happen especially with parents or guardians who are overly stressed or overwhelmed by anxieties related to the health of family members, financial constraints, job security and their children’s education.

“The incidence of child abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic increases with risk factors, such as parent’s or guardian’s mental illness, prior child abuse and neglect, unemployment or loss of employment, domestic violence, and difficulty in managing child behavioral problems,” the doctor said.

Wetherick said what is extremely alarming is that child abuse may not be seen because it happens at home and at-risk children are cooped inside without any way of reporting or telling someone about the abuse.

Younger children are more at risk because they are less verbal and are unable to physically defend themselves. For older children or teens who have been sexually abused by family members, they are at risk of being abused again or traumatized with the constant presence of the abuser inside their homes.

“Given the above scenario, any concerned citizen is strongly urged to report all forms of child abuse to the barangay officials, the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC), the nearest police station, or call DSWD-CAR at 442-7917. For parents or guardians seeking consultation about managing emotional distress or their children’s behavioral concerns, contact SLU Sunflower Child and Youth Wellness Center at 446-5664 or 0915 541 5501. For other mental health support services, contact the Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA) Cordillera Chapter Inc. and the BGHMC Psychiatry Mental Health Support and Services through their Facebook Page,” Wetherick urged.


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