COLONEL Jonnel C. Estomo, a bemedaled member of Philippine Military Academy ‘Tanglaw Diwa’ Class of 1992 will officially assume his post today as the new director of the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) beset with the tough challenge of fighting a new scourge: casino-related kidnapping-for-ransom cases in the country wherein foreign victims have been forced to pay billions of pesos to their compatriots-turned kidnappers.
Estomo replaces Brigadier General Glenn G. Dumlao of PNP Academy Class 1988 who retired last Friday after leading the successful PNP-AKG’s drive against kidnapping-for-ransom gangs since December 2016.
Although the PNP-AKG has managed to dramatically reduce KFR incidents by conducting massive operations which led in the neutralization of dozens of notorious kidnapping gangs over the past three years, it has been confronted with a new threat: the presence of well-organized gangs abducting foreign casino players who have failed to pay them their huge debts plus daily interests and forcing their families abroad to pay huge ransom after showing videos of them being tortured while under captivity.
Last week, PNP-AKG agents raided the safehouses of Filipino cohorts of a Chinese-led KFR, one of the targets identified as Magdaleno Pacia Jr., a former member of the Southern Police District who was dismissed from the PNP service in April last year for robbery and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
The suspects are wanted for their involvement in the kidnapping-for-ransom of Chinese nationals Guo Faquiang, Zhu Fangmei, Li Chao, Zhang Zhen and Lu Renxian last January 14.
The victims were abducted by a group of armed Filipinos while they were on their way to the posh Solaire Resorts and Casino in Parañaque. After being divested of their cash and valuables, the victims were beaten up with firearms by the kidnappers who were found to be acting in cahoots with some Chinese nationals.
Guo Faquiang was told by the kidnappers to pay three billion Yuan for their safe release. The victims however asked that the ransom money be reduced to 30 million Renminbi, an offer rejected by the kidnappers.
Guo made an unsuccessful attempt to escape from his captors in an incident witnessed by some residents of Santos Village 3 in Barangay Zapote, Las Piñas City the following day.
On the same afternoon, an unconscious Zhu Fangmei was dropped by the suspects near the same area. The victim died while undergoing treatment at the St. Luke’s Hospital in Taguig City.
PNP-AKG records also showed the following cases: the kidnapping in Malate, Manila of Lin Xhiao, Yao Wen Lon and Lin Long Hu on April 5, 2017 with the three being forced to pay 168 million Renminbi to the kidnappers; the case of Chen Yefeng and Wangfeng Liu who paid 100 million Renminbi after being kidnapped in Pasay City;
The kidnapping of Guo Faquiang and Zhuy Fangmei who paid a total of P3 billion to the kidnappers thru wire transfer; the February 18 kidnapping in Manila of Cai Binbin who was forced to pay his P1.4 million debt to the syndicate; the May 17 kidnapping inside a Pasay City KTV bar of Li Chao who was forced to pay 25 million Renminbi to the suspects thru an Escrow account; the kidnapping last May 18 in Pasay City of Zhang Rongbin whose family was forced to transfer 1 million Renminbi to a Chinese account; and the June 7 kidnapping of Zhn Zhang and Renxian Lu near the NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay City with both being forced to deposit 15 million Renminbi to the kidnappers’ account.
During the raid in Tanauan City in Batangas, AKG agents recovered cannibalized spare parts and accessories of a black Toyota Alphard used in the January 14 kidnapping.
Another raid in Filinvest Subdivision in Sto. Tomas, Batangas led in the recovery of 45 pieces of P1,000 bills and 11 pieces of assorted jewelry items believed to be owned by kidnapping victims.
The raid at the residences of Pacia and his common-law wife Andrelyn Naldoza inside Luck Homes Subdivision in Las Piñas City led in the recovery of three semi-automatic pistols, dozens of live ammunition, a hand grenade, one live M203 ammunition, Pacia’s police uniforms, P300,000 in P1,000 denominations and a bundle of P1,000 worth P1 million. Naldoza was arrested and is now facing criminal charges.
Last Thursday, 22-year old Jiang Fan Li, also a Chinese tourist believed to have been kidnapped and tortured by a gang of casino loan sharks in Makati City was rescued by agents of the National Capital Region Office of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said PNP-CIDG director, Major General Amador V. Corpus.
CIDG-NCR chief, Lieutenant Colonel Arnold Thomas C. Ibay said two Filipinos were arrested during the rescue operation.
Eight other Chinese nationals identified as Gui Yang, Zhou Xia Long, Wang Wen Tao, Xiong Li, Jiang Fan, Hong Pei Feng, Ly Shao Yojng and Jiang Ying Jiang were arrested and charged with kidnapping-for-ransom and serious illegal detention before the Las Piñas City Prosecutor’s Office by the CIDG in connection with the kidnapping last June 22 of Liu Chao, 27, and Li San Sheng, 25.
Corpus said that the victims claimed they were tortured by their captors and their torture video sent to their relatives in China who were asked by the kidnappers to pay them 800,000 Yuan ransom. Both were likewise found handcuffed to a wooden double deck bed at the kidnappers’ room.