ABU DHABI // The mother who abandoned a foetus on an Etihad Airways flight to Manila may have had a miscarriage, according to the police chief leading the investigation.
The foetus, which was at five to six months' term, was found in a rubbish bin in the plane's rear lavatory shortly after the aircraft arrived in Manila on Monday night.
The identity of the mother is still not known. "It's difficult to conclude; investigations should be based on facts, so we need to identify her first," said Senior Supt Napoleon Cuaton, the police chief in Pasay City, part of metro Manila.
"But as I see it, the woman could have been under a great deal of stress and was very exhausted from the flight, and that caused a miscarriage. She got terrified and left the foetus in the toilet," he said.
Yesterday, investigators assigned to the case received a copy of the list of passengers aboard Etihad flight EY428, which arrived at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 9.55pm on Monday.
There were 246 passengers on the flight from Abu Dhabi, including an infant. One hundred and eight were women.
"My investigators are now looking for the names of the female passengers on the flight manifest so we can start the process of elimination," Senior Supt Cuaton said.
He said the mother left no traces that would make for an easy identification on the plane. In a similar case in September last year, a Filipina who abandoned her baby after giving birth in the toilet of a Gulf Air plane was tracked down because blood spots were found on her seat. The mother was identified as an overseas worker in Qatar.
"But last Monday, the plane did not offer any clues for us to identify the mother. The passengers had already disembarked when the foetus was discovered by an aircraft cleaner in preparation for Etihad's outbound flight," Senior Supt Cuaton said. Investigators have to verify the port of origin of the female passengers, which requires co-ordination with Etihad.
The station manager of Etihad Airways at Ninoy Aquino airport said he was not authorised to speak about the incident, beyond acknowledging that the airline had been working with police in their investigations.
"If the mother is found to be an [overseas Filipino worker], we will contact the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration [OWWA] for assistance in our investigation," Senior Supt Cuaton said.
The OWWA is an agency of the Philippine department of labour and employment that protects and promotes the welfare of Filipino migrant workers.
Once the mother had been identified, she would be questioned about the circumstances and reasons for abandoning the foetus, he said. She could face homicide charges if she intentionally aborted the foetus. But if she had a miscarriage, she will be charged with abandonment.
"Under the revised penal code, the woman could be sentenced to between seven and 12 years in prison for abandoning a minor," Senior Supt Cuaton said.