Officials at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) intercepted an American woman attempting to smuggle a six-day-old infant out of the Philippines and arrested her for human trafficking.
Officials say Jennifer Erin Talbot from Ohio planned to board a Delta Air Lines flight to the United States with the undeclared baby. She passed through the airport immigration counter at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
The 43-year-old traveler removed the hidden child from out of the sling bag and carried it after passing through immigration.
Airport personnel managed to catch her at the boarding gate inside Terminal 3, and Talbot told them she was the baby's aunt, according to CNN Philippines.
The boy, who looked Filippino, may have been the first indication that she was lying.
When Talbot was unable to provide documentation for the child when prompted by Delta Air Lines crew members, they contacted the authorities.
The Huffington Post reported that immigration official Grifton Medina said over the phone:
"There was really an intention to hide the baby."
The Philippines National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the country's investigative agency, held a press conference on Thursday.
NBI spokesperson Auralyn Pascual disclosed Talbot's charges.
"She has been charged with a violation of the Anti-trafficking in Persons Act of 2003."
"The child's situation must have been very difficult during the time that he was put inside that bag."
NBC News reported that Medina explained how the airline staff aided airport officials in apprehending Talbot.
"She would not have a baby in a hand-carry to be x-rayed. But she hid it at check-in and when she passed immigration counters, and then at the other x-ray to the boarding gate, then she showed it. That's the time we were able to apprehend her, when she passed through the next x-ray."
The government requires proper travel documents for infants and minors—any traveler under the age of 18. Lack of a verifiable document constitutes a violation.
The NBI said Talbot produced an Affadivit of Consent and Support from the baby's mother who allegedly gave consent for the baby to travel abroad; however, it had not been signed by the mother.
A press releases alleged that the baby was born on August 29, 2019 at Southern Philippines Medical Center, Davao City.
"Verification with DSWD likewise revealed that no Travel Clearance was issued to the baby."
The NBI confirmed the baby is safe and was handed over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Meanwhile, the NIAI is under scrutiny for its lenient security protocols. An inter-agency review to prevent a repeat of Wednesday's incident could be expected in the near future.
The real mother of the baby was later identified as Maricris Cempron Dulap, and together with the baby's unknown father, was charged under a child protection law.
A search to locate them is currently underway.
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