x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Search persists for mother of abandoned foetus

The list of suspects in the abandonment of a foetus aboard an Etihad Airways plane, has been narrowed to 165 passengers.

ABU DHABI // Officials in the Philippines trying to identify the woman who left a dead foetus in an aeroplane lavatory last week have narrowed the search to 165 Filipina passengers.

The numbers are adjusted slightly from original reports, which said there were 108 women among 246 passengers on the Etihad Airways plane.

The foetus, which was at five to six months of term, was found in a rubbish bin in the rear lavatory shortly after the aircraft arrived in Manila at 9.55pm on January 3.

The Pasay City police chief, Senior Supt Napoleon Cuaton, said police were working with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the Philippine government agency that oversees migrant workers, on a "process of elimination".

"We sent a list of the Filipina passengers to the OWWA to verify the countries where they were deployed," Senior Supt Cuaton said.

"Once we receive a reply from them, we will start making the proper representations with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to request the social welfare attachés at the respective embassies to conduct a social investigation in the workplace."

Senior Supt Cuaton said last week that although the mother who abandoned the foetus may have had a miscarriage brought on by stress and exhaustion from the flight, police still needed to identify her.

Once the mother had been identified, she would be questioned about the circumstances and reasons for abandoning the foetus, Senior Supt Cuaton has said. She could face homicide charges if she intentionally aborted the foetus.

But under the revised penal code, if she had a miscarriage, she may be charged with abandonment and could face between seven and 12 years in prison, he has said.

Corazon Soliman, the social welfare secretary, was quoted in local media as saying she was worried about increasing incidents of Filipino workers abandoning their babies on planes. As a result, she has decided to deploy two more social welfare attachés to the Middle East.

There are social welfare attachés in Malaysia and Jordan. At the moment, the Philippine overseas labour offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai do not have social welfare attachés, according to Filipino labour officials.

Senior Supt Cuaton said officers from the embassies could assist in the "social investigation" by contacting colleagues or friends of the female passengers who happened to be on the Etihad flight in question to Manila.

"They could ask if any one of the women were pregnant, their departure date, and any other vital information which could lead us to identify the woman who left the dead foetus on the plane," he said.

rruiz@thenational.ae