A relative of the children a Belgian man was accused of trafficking in Cebu has claimed her family has been traumatised by his wrongful arrest.
As we reported last week, Koen Van Den Broek was arrested at Cebu South Bus Terminal by police and personnel of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).
He was in the company of a 13-year-old girl, her nine-year-old brother, a three-year-old girl and her four-year-old brother and two aunts aged 18 and 19.
After his arrest, the family immediately rushed to the police station to defend him, telling officers he had been a close friend of the family for many years.
Despite their words, and clear evidence on his Facebook page of a long-term friendship, the 60-year-old remains in custody.
Two days after his arrest, the initial trafficking charge against the Belgian was dropped by a judge, only to be replaced with an accusation of child abuse, which Mr Van Den Broek and the family also deny. Bail has been set at 120,000 pesos.
Today (Wednesday, January 3), a member of the family — who has asked not to be identified — has contacted PLN to confirm Mr Van Den Broek’s innocence and to highlight the effect his arrest has had on his/her family.
The relative gave this account of the arrest: “Koen has been with our family for years now, I can’t even remember for many years exactly.
“He’s been helping supporting my [relative] and her kids. He treats her kids like his own.
“When he comes to the Philippines he treats the family to a vacation. It had been arranged to go to Moalboal on December 26. One of the mothers of the children lives in the direction of Moalboal, so they were going to meet her along the way.
“So, the grandparents dropped Koen, the sisters and kids outside the bus terminal.
“Then the cops saw Koen with the three sisters, aged 18, 19 and 12, and the other children they thought it was human trafficking, so they took them to police station.
“Right away the parents of kids went to the police station, along with the grandparents.
“Because they all told the same story, the cops were willing to drop the charge, but a lady from IACAT still believed that Koen was doing human trafficking even with no proof or evidence.
“They took Koen to jail and they took [my relatives] to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).”
Belgian and kids remain in custody
The relative said that the children remain there in “protective custody”, despite the desperate pleas of the family.
The relative continued: “They said they were going to ask the kids some questions or give them counselling. But they’re trying to get them to say something bad about Koen.
“They even asked the kids to sign a document without their parents or grandparents being able to explain what it is.
“New Year was coming, so we begged to let the kids go home to their family, but they did not care.
“The kids are hurting and asking: ‘What’s going on? What have we done wrong? Why are we stuck in a place that is like a jail?’
“Today, January 3, we will be having a meeting and just hope they will release the kids so they can go to school.
“I’m sure the experience is going to affect them badly, and they say they trying to protect the kids!
“But they broke the family apart and all of them are traumatised.”
UPDATE: As of Thursday, January 4, the children remain in the custody of the DSWD, while Mr Van Den Broek has posted the 120,000-peso bail.