FILE PHOTO: Ica Policarpio (Manila Bulletin)
The disappearance of Ica Policarpio last week in Muntinlupa City was not triggered by a sick viral trend on Facebook called the “48-Hour Challenge” but was caused by ‘deep emotional distress,’ her family announced Tuesday night.
In an official statement of the Policarpio family posted by Ica’s sister, Bea, on her Facebook account, she said that the 17-year-old girl did not deserve the “blind judgement and hate” she has been receiving online for the past days after she was found.
Ica is the niece of Jimmy Policarpio who served as the chief of Presidential Legislative Liaison Office under the administration of Joseph Estrada who is now the mayor of Manila.
The young lass went missing on the night of December 21 in a cafe in Sucat, Muntinlupa and was found on December 24 in San Pablo, Laguna.
“Thank you to everyone who has respected our request for privacy for the past 48 hours. This was only so our family could have a little time to recover from sleepless nights, as well as have some semblance of a normal Christmas. These were our first attempts at healing, though we are a long way from this,” Bea wrote in her post.
“Firstly, I would like to clarify that I have learned firsthand from my sister Ica that she had no knowledge whatsoever of any ’48-hour challenge’ (supposedly trending) in other parts of the world. She DID NOT join any such challenge. Her disappearance was not a prank,” she clarified.
The 48-Hour Challenge
Various online challenges entailing tasteless tasks or, worse, sick dares mostly geared for the younger generation have been trending worldwide.
According to various online articles, a participant of the 48-Hour Challenge fakes his or her disappearance, leaving their family and friends in a panic, and earns “points” for any mention of their names, number of shares, likes and comments they get on Facebook.
After 48 hours, the participant then reappears. It was not clear what the reward would be for participating in the said viral challenge.
After Ica was found, netizens in the Philippines shared a Yahoo! article that was published in October regarding the “48-Hour Challenge.”
The article said the challenge was a spin-off the “Game of 72,” which went viral in 2015 and had kids feigning their disappearance for 72 hours.
“In a new twist on the so-called ‘game,’ participants get a higher score for each time they are mentioned on social media. That means that the ‘missing’ children are rewarded when worried parents ask Facebook friends for help to find them.”
Yet the reward was never defined or mentioned.
Many Filipino netizens expressed their dismay and hoped that Ica Policarpio did not participate in the said challenge since there were so many missing persons who are also worthy of receiving a certain amount of attention.
“When I said I felt something was off with the Ica Policarpio story, I meant it. And when I said that, when I looked at her pictures during the course of the past 2 days she was reported missing with her aura dark and blurry, I was serious. I do hope that for her sake, she didn’t just deliberately prank the public-at-large who got so worried and concerned for her safety, and actually helped locate her successfully. If her reason for disappearing for 48 hrs is THIS, then it’s not funny. Not funny at all,” one Facebook user wrote.
Bea defended her sister from internet bashers, saying Ica “does not deserve our blind judgement and hate.”
“My sister Ica disappeared from home last Thursday night, December 21, out of deep emotional distress. The reasons for her distress are numerous and honestly, private. She is still being evaluated medically, and it is our family’s sole responsibility to understand what has caused her to carry so much pain not just in the recent past, but apparently, for several months, and even years prior.
“If there’s any “reward” that the incident has brought into light, Bea said it was “to raise awareness about the stigma of mental health and the growing culture of hate which unfortunately exists in our country’s cyberspace, and collective mind space,” Bea said.
“If anything, this hate culture is a desperate call for help. Let us answer this call with nothing but love, as difficult as this may be,” she added.
To date, the Policarpio family still has not divulge to the public the exact reason why Ica disappeared on the night of December 21. However, they assured that Ica “receives the medical attention and emotional support that she needs.”
Bea also reiterated their family’s gratitude to the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the residents and barangay officials in San Pablo, Laguna who first saw Ica, and the netizens who helped in finding her.
“Lastly, to anyone out there who feels that they are lost, please, reach out. I promise that we will #FindYou,” Bea concluded. (Additional reporting by Dhel Nazario)