Baby found in Laguna creek can’t be adopted at once

By Anjo Bagaoisan

The abandoned baby when it was taken from the creek in Sta Rosa Laguna still wrapped in a transparent plastic bag (Photo from PNP Sta. Rosa Police Community Relations office)

The baby when it was taken from the creek still wrapped in a transparent plastic bag (Photo from PNP Sta. Rosa Police Community Relations office)

STA. ROSA, LAGUNA— He’s now out of the hospital, but the most recent baby patient of the Sta. Rosa Community Hospital’s emergency room is doing well even without his biological parents.

The doctor and nurses on duty described the child they initially named “Baby Boy X” as “well-born”—healthy and born full-term at 3.3 kilograms and 55 centimeters.

It’s a miracle for them, considering the baby was found inside a plastic bag at a shallow creek in the dark of night.

While on their nightly tricycle rounds of Centro de San Lorenzo, a massive local subdivision, volunteer patrollers Romel, Jesse, and Arjay heard a baby’s cries coming from the creek nearly an hour before midnight on Monday.

The creek was often a hiding spot for thieves and stolen items, they said. They approached the creek with their flashlights.

(L-R) Jesse Custorio, Arjay Pornasdoro, and Romel Ibañez, the community brigade volunteers who found the baby at the creek in Centro de San Lorenzo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. (Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(L-R) Jesse Custorio, Arjay Pornasdoro, and Romel Ibañez, the community brigade volunteers who found the baby at the creek in Centro de San Lorenzo in Sta. Rosa. (Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The three saw a small foot extending from the inside of a transparent plastic bag in the middle of the sluggish waterway. The plastic was similar to those used to pack in fresh meat in supermarkets.

“I mistook it at first for a ‘tiyanak’,” Romel said, referring to the mythical Filipino monster which takes the form of a baby.

It was unlike anything the young men in their mid-20’s had seen in their couple of years as part of the community brigade.

But when they realized it was an actual baby, they jumped onto the water to get it and rushed the baby to the privately owned Sta. Rosa Medical Center within 10 minutes.

The baby was still drenched in its placenta and had on its umbilical cord, evidence that he was newly born

After the staff at the medical center cleaned him up and removed the cord, the baby was moved to the public Community Hospital since he would be under the government‘s custody.

While at the ER, he was fed every two hours with breast milk the hospital regularly collects from the mothers in the OB ward.

Baby found in creek is given breast milk via a dropper by hospital staff in Sta Rosa, Laguna (Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Staff had to give him antibiotics for a urinary tract infection he could have gotten from his mother, as well as to thwart any other infection he may have contracted from the creek.

‘Blessing’

The baby captured many hearts there, including hospital workers who expressed interest in adopting him.

“They wanted to adopt because a baby is considered a blessing,” said resident Dr. Michelle De Castro. She said she could not help but feel pity for what happened to him.

“I was irritated on the part of the mother since she created this but could not own up to it. There are many who want to become mothers but can’t.”

Sta. Rosa police are prowling local health center records to find out who the baby’s parents are. They said the parents could face criminal charges but still called on them to come out and take responsibility for the baby.

But for the city social welfare and development office, even if the mother presents herself, she would not immediately get custody of the child.

The baby was moved to the city health office since he could not stay for long inside the community hospital ER because of the risk to his health.

“The mother has to be assessed if she has the means and capability to take care of the child. She would have to undergo tests and interviews,” said Glory Belle Agnabo, the local social welfare officer in charge of adoptions.

Same goes for others wanting to adopt the child.

The baby being given antibiotics at the ER of the Sta Rosa Community Hospital while being filmed by a TV crew. (Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

“The baby cannot just be given to anyone expressing their intention to adopt him. We are mandated to refer the baby to a child caring agency. If no one claims the child as theirs in the next 3 months, the child will then be considered as abandoned. We would next need to declare him legally available for adoption,” Agnabo said.

The whole process could take up to 6 months, she said. Prospective parents cannot also choose the child they adopt.

The child caring agency the baby ends up in will look after him during that period. He won’t have a legal name until the family that adopts him gives him one and his birth certificate is finally filed.

For now, to distinguish the child from other foundlings, the social workers decided to call him Baby Lorenzo, after the place where he was found.

Baby Lorenzo, the newborn found abandoned at a creek in Sta Rosa, Laguna, rests at the ER (Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

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All eyes on Janet Napoles (no more)

ABS-CBN cameraman shooting the facade of the Philippine Senate on the wait for Janet Lim Napoles (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

On guard in front of the Senate (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

None of us caught a glimpse of Janet Lim-Napoles when she arrived at the Senate on November 7. That, despite the best-laid coverage plans and the most pervasive camera placements in and around the compound.

That morning, media vehicles trailed a convoy that sped away from Napoles’s detention cell in Fort Sto. Domingo, Laguna. Some had lenses trained on it the whole ride, airing live via mobile transmitters.

Our broadcast facilities at the Senate were all set up the night before, fired up since 4 a.m., and waiting. Up to the last minute, news bosses talked with the Senate media bureau, haggling set-up spaces and running lists of personnel for accreditation.

The last time the Senate saw something this big was during the impeachment trialof former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Channels devoting special coverage again put up remote studios in allocated halls. Stages for live stand-ups were erected at the parking lot. Big news orgs like ABS-CBN fielded at least 6 reporter crews to the place. Robotic CCTV-style cameras were hung above the Senate session hall.

ABS-CBN reporter Ron Gagalac preparing to report on ANC from the Senate on Janet Napoles at the Pork Barrel Scam hearing (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Ron Gagalac on ANC. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

But the convoy from Laguna didn’t go straight to the Senate basement where VIPs of previous famous hearings usually headed. Instead, it stopped near the gate, beside a restricted side entrance for employees. Cameramen rushed there too late to see anyone important.

With no confirmation if Napoles had indeed arrived, we assumed the convoy was a decoy and waited a little more. One of our producers said he had sources saying Napoles was not yet here.

But a few minutes later, Janet Napoles entered the Senate plenary hall from a holding area reserved for senators. She wore a police-issued bulletproof vest—her same getup when we last saw her being rushed to a jailhouse in Makati.

Face-to-face

Napoles sat on one side of the rectangular arrangement of desks, directly opposite the senators. Beside her were two public attorneys, hired by the Senate to fill in for Napoles’s private counsel, who resigned. The whistleblowers, also in bulletproof vests, faced her from the right.

Monitors on ABS-CBN OB van show Janet Lim Napoles (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Split screens and Janet Napoles from the robotic camera. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

At our OB van, the technical director readied a split-screen template set against a graphic designed for this coverage. The producers wanted to see the reactions of Napoles, the whistleblowers, and the senators to each question and answer, so their shots had to be shown side-by-side.

Some of the Senate cleaning staff took a break to watch the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on TV screens. Even the session hall had to extend seating capacity to 300. Among the restrictions inside—wearing shirts with political statements. Outside, militant groups came to protest.

Everyone wanted to hear what Napoles would say. None perhaps more than Sen. Miriam Santiago. Santiago had tweeted that she would get up from her “sick bed” just to grill Napoles.

Miriam’s turn to interrogate Janet was riveting, even entertaining. But after appealing to conscience, warning against possible death, employing reverse psychology, dispensing legal advise, and even name-dropping suspects, it grew frustrating.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago holds a press conference after interrogating Janet Napoles  (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

After the interrogation, a presser for Senator Miriam. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The other senators rephrased their questions and asked in stages, but they got nothing.

Napoles would say variations of these:

  1. “Hindi ko po alam”;
  2. “May kaso na po kami sa korte, BIR, Ombudsman, etc.”;
  3. “I invoke my right against self-incrimination.”

Someone took count–19 times for “I don’t know”, and 22 for “I invoke”. Filipinos have seen too many Senate hearings not to find those answers oddly familiar. Some waited for the usual final card to be played: the appeal to health.

The hearing looked futile–its bird would not sing. But Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson Sen. TG Guingona saw it differently. He had previously fought to summon Napoles to the Senate floor.

Contrasts

Guingona said the contrast between Napoles’s “general denials” and the whistleblowers’ “positive assertions” was clear to those watching. For him, the hearing allowed the public to scrutinize Napoles’s credibility.

Whistleblowers Marina Sula, Merlina Suñas, Benhur Luy and ,  Gertrudes Luy face Janet Napoles at the Senate (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Allan Pingol, ABS-CBN News)

Janet Napoles surrounded by lawyers from the Public Attorney's Office (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Angel Valderrama, ABS-CBN News) Beside Napoles, public lawyers she first met on this day. Facing her, her accusers. (Shots by Angel Valderrama & Allan Pingol, ABS-CBN News)

Santiago, meanwhile, suspected that Napoles was torn between protecting her alleged godfathers in government and saving her self. Santiago insisted though that there were bigger fish in the alleged pork barrel scam than Napoles.

The entire time, our lead anchor Lynda Jumilla sat in the Senate studio listening and typing notes. When the session called a break–like when Napoles asked to eat–the ABS-CBN News Channel would ask Lynda to fill in with a report. Occasionally, Channel 2 would also air Lynda’s updates.

Aided by a producer and two coordinators, Lynda invited senators and Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to talk with her live. And while there, she still managed to get first the sides of senators who were absent.

Lynda was sent a picture of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada watching ANC’s coverage in the United States. Then, after Senator Santiago unleashed diatribes against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Sergio Osmeña III, Enrile texted Lynda a reaction. Osmeña even went down from his office to be interviewed live.

Lynda Jumilla interviews Sen. Francis Chiz Escudero the day Janet Napoles faced the Senate. (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

On ANC: Lynda Jumilla interviews Chiz Escudero. Click the pic to watch. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

As stealthily as Napoles came in, so did she leave. Few looked for her once the hearing ended. No media convoys followed her back to Fort Sto. Domingo. Reporters were busy getting reactions and filing stories.

Napoles was bumped off the top story during the primetime newscasts, when President Aquino came on TV pleading with Filipinos in the Visayas to evacuate their homes from nearing super storm Yolanda (Haiyan). His live speech cut into Ron Gagalac’s wrap-up report of the hearing.

The typhoon was in the minds of half the country that night, and the tragedy that followed took their attentions entirely off Napoles and the pork barrel scam.

But it did not stop some from reminding everyone what could have been avoided had not the nation’s taxes been tampered. Actress Angel Locsin asked that Napoles be shown TV coverage of the typhoon in her cell, hoping that she might feel remorse over what she allegedly did.

Napoles’s first face-to-face with the Senate was already set late due to an earthquake, an election, and a holiday. They said this was not the last. But after Yolanda, who knows when the next will be.

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On the tube: Typhoon Santi floods Laguna

We only wished that that Saturday was like any other first day of the annual Undas (a.k.a. All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day). For TV news, it involved the usual live points at the busiest cemeteries, transport terminals, and highways.

But on November 1, another storm in a stormy year hit Luzon.

It was three letters after the two worst typhoons of 2009, and like those after, one could only guess which areas “Santi” (a.k.a. Mirinae), would hit and how hard.

The “Saint” on All Saints’ Day broke land early morning, and with it the reports of strong winds and rising waters south of Manila.

The desk tasked us to monitor traffic at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) for “Salamat Dok”, and then move to Los Baños, Laguna later. The province, apparently, suffered the worst.

The gales, not the rains, stopped us from setting up at our planned live point above a flyover. Our nominally sturdy van already swayed with the winds.

Our engineer could not and would not call the setup, not even after we moved to a gas station. So we spent the entire dawn parked there, waiting for instructions and for the worst to fade.

They sent us on to Laguna later. Then the rains had stopped, the wind blew quietly, the sun was out, and “Salamat Dok” was over.

The drive there yielded no dramatic video the likes of Ondoy and Pepeng. Save for some fallen branches, uprooted trees and a few submerged roadways, it seemed no storm had passed.

Had we gone straight to Laguna during “Santi’s” height, like reporter Ryan Chua and his team, our “award-winning” cameraman Bernie Mallari would have caught more action.

Ryan rode on to the capitol in Sta. Cruz just to get government’s side. His exclusive video of the storm all came from the road and told all.

The ENG van team pulled over in Los Baños, the farthest our signal could reach.

Ryan had to send us his tapes so we could transmit it to ABS-CBN. He then came back two-plus hours before 6 p.m. to edit his story.

The live-package report aired on TV Patrol Sabado shows the challenge of balancing TV news values: editing in all the good shots, following the script, allowing for very last minute changes, all the while making it to the first gap of the newscast.

After the adrenaline rush of airing it, we dined on roasted bangus, lechon manok, and hot rice on the banks of the Laguna de Bay. We then packed for home.

All afternoon and evening, our “Saint” was no more in sight.