Last month, there was a lot of talk about kidnappings, partly due to what people thought was an abduction on Edsa. Some parents perceive a resurgence in kidnapping.
I would like to believe that this is not true, and that the stories are isolated cases. But I also know that we cannot leave something like this to chance, and must take every precaution to keep our children safe.
Here are tips I have gathered to help protect your child from kidnapping.
Be vigilant and safe
The first and best way to prevent kidnappings is also the simplest and most obvious. You, your children and their caregivers must learn to be always aware of your surroundings. Do not be too absorbed with your gadgets or headphones that you fail to notice the danger lurking, such as suspicious-looking persons and cars.
Play it safe at all times by avoiding dark parking areas and alleys. Let your children wait for you in a well-lit and safe place with a trusted companion, rather than making them walk to a dark car park or on a distant and lonely street.
Recently, my godmother also gave my kids whistles tied on a string, and instructed them to keep it at all times so that they could use it to attract attention, should anyone try to come close or grab them.
If you have extra resources, invest in a CCTV system for your home. You never know whom you may catch suspiciously lurking outside your house.
Teach your children to shout specific messages. And practice the messages with them. Screaming alone can be mistaken for a game or a simple tantrum, but a specific message shouted out loud will alert nearby people that there is something wrong.
Children should be taught to shout out what is happening to them, such as "I'm being kidnapped! I don't know this man! Call the police!"
Aside from teaching your children, make sure you practice what you teach. Create different "what if" scenarios and explain what can happen and what their options are, so they understand completely and will know how to react.
In many cases, children have no idea of what is actually happening until it is too late.
Avoid a routine
Don't make it easy for people to know where your children are at any given time. Learn and use multiple routes to school and other places you frequent with your children.
The beauty of taking different routes (at random) is that not only will it be more difficult for people to know where to block your car, but it will also make it harder for anyone to know exactly what time you will be in specific areas, since traffic differs in other routes and will make your schedule less predictable.
Your household staff and employees have a lot of access to your children, so make sure that they all have an updated NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) clearance. Verify their names, addresses and hometowns as well, and keep a photo on file.
Before hiring, get in touch with their previous employers and do background check.
I like to work with people who are recommended to me by a trusted person rather than an agency.
This applies to whether you're on the phone or on social media, or in person.
Teach your staff and children not to share relevant information about your family, home or schedules with anyone.
Keep an eye on what is posted online about you and your children.
Constantly posting your children's activities in real time will alert kidnappers of your schedule. You may not mention your child's school, but if you post a photo of him or her in uniform, that is the same thing.
Also, always make sure that the GPS function of your phone is off when taking photos and posting online.
Many parents I know also don't post photos of their children online.
Don't display wealth
There's nothing that attracts the attention of kidnappers more than knowing they can demand a large ransom from you, and that you can afford to pay.
Know where your kids are
In this day and age, with all the gadgets and technology we have, nothing still beats the old-fashioned way of simply knowing where your children are and whom they are with at all times.
If your child wants to go somewhere you are not comfortable with or with people you do not know, do not let them go.
You and your prayers are your own best resource. Do not doubt the strength of a parent's prayer for a child's safety.
At the same time, if you feel that something is wrong and that you and your children are being followed and targeted, do something at once.
Report to the nearest authorities and take all necessary precaution. Do not wait for something to happen.
I sincerely hope and pray that these tips help all families, and that nobody has to ever endure the agony of trying to get a child back from kidnappers.
Stay safe, everyone!
In case of emergency, you can reach the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnap Group at 7270000 or 7266507.