A Belgian man taking a Filipino family on a post-Christmas outing has been arrested on suspicion of child trafficking.
Koen Van Den Broek, aged 60, was spotted at Cebu South Bus Terminal by police and personnel of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.
He was in the company of a 13-year-old girl, her nine-year-old brother from Mandaue, a three-year-old girl and her four-year-old brother from Naga City and two aunts aged 18 and 19.
Officers approached him and asked if the four were relatives. They confirmed that they were not, but that the Belgian often stayed at their home when he visits the Philippines, and had frequently taken the family on trips.
Examination of his Facebook page confirms the long-standing relationship with the family, including videos posted on Christmas Day showing their happy celebrations together.
The mother of the children has also defended Mr Van Den Broek.
Upon hearing of his arrest, she rushed to the Carbon Police Station to deny the accusations of child trafficking.
She told officers that Van Den Broek had been a generous friend to her family for the past eight years, and was even helping them to build a new home.
“I was surprised that this happened,” she told the Cebu Daily News. “We were just called to come here. It has been his practice that when he visits he Philippines, he asks us where we want to go for a special treat.”
Her words are confirmed by numerous pictures on his Facebook timeline. Last January, for example, he took the family to Siquijor Island.
Despite the clear evidence of his relationship with the family, Mr Van Den Broek will be charged under Republic Act 7610 or the Anti-Child Abuse Law.
Under the child trafficking section of this legislation, it is illegal for “any person who shall keep or have in his company a minor, 12 years or younger or who is 10 years or more his junior in any public or private place, hotel, motel, beer joint, discotheque, cabaret, pension house, sauna or massage parlour, beach and/or other tourist resort or similar place” unless there are family ties or some other legal bond or obligation involved.
The “rescued” children have been turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development to be interviewed and for counselling. The parents remain under investigation.