CASES of kidnappings-for-ransom (KFRs) in the country have been on the downward trend from 2018 to date although the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group(PNP-AKG) is watching a slight increase in POGO and casino-related kidnappings where most of the kidnappers and the victims are all Chinese nationals, the Journal Group learned yesterday.
This prompted PNP chief, General Debold M. Sinas to caution operators of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) against hiding information from the police when it comes to criminal matters involving their workers specifically those who are being victimized by kidnapping-for-ransom gangs.
Sinas issued the warning after agents of the PNP-AKG headed by Brigadier Gen. Jonnel C. Estomo arrested three Chinese nationals for the kidnapping of a Vietnamese-Chinese national in Angeles City in Pampanga three weeks ago.
“I am strongly urging POGO operators to closely coordinate with the PNP on security concerns and to refrain from handling these matters on their own,” Sinas said amid observations that POGO officials usually withhold information about kidnappings of their workers to police investigators particularly those from the PNP-AKG.
Estomo said the downward trend of KFR incidents from 2018 to 2020 was triggered by their relentless anti-kidnapping operations coupled with the active support of other law enforcement and government agencies, local government units and non-governmental organizations which have rallied to join the country’s fight against the kidnapping menace.
He said the decrease in the number of incidents can be attributed to the number of successful rescue, manhunt and intelligence-driven operations they conducted to deny, contain and neutralize members of different KFR gangs in the country.
“The decrease can also be attributed to the relentless effort of the current Duterte administration in its war against illegal drugs which resulted in the reduction of crime incidents in the country. In addition, there is also the intensified and sustained Focused Military Operations in Mindanao to neutralize dreaded terror and other criminal groups in the region involved in kidnappings,” Estomo said.
However, he said POGO-related kidnapping cases slightly increased during the same period particularly since 2019 and this year of the pandemic.
Records showed that from January to last December 7, the PNP-AKG recorded 13 KFR cases in the country: eight from Luzon and five in Mindanao. It also investigated 16 POGO-related KFR cases: 15 in Luzon and one in Visayas; and two casino-related kidnappings in Metro Manila.
In 2019, the AKG solved 28 out of 38 reported KFR cases, eight out of nine POGO-related KFR incidents; and 22 out of 38 casino-related KFR cases.
This year, the PNP-AKG solved eight of 13 reported KFR cases, 13 out of three recorded POGO-related kidnappings and both two reported casino-related KFR cases.
“Since there was a stoppage in the operations of online gambling, we have monitored many cases of employers who have no profit and in order to survive, they will detain their employees and deprive them of their liberty and ask for money from their captive’s family abroad in exchange for their liberty,” said the PNP-AKG director.
Casino-related kidnappings also prospered in the country due to the influx of foreign nationals, many of them from China, the official said. The PNP said the presence of casino-related kidnappings have in fact given the country some negative image abroad prompting the PNP-AKG to further step up their campaign against syndicates involved in the abductions.
During an Anti-Kidnapping Summit organized by the PNP-AKG and the AKG Advisory Council, it was found out that casino-related kidnappings have become a lucrative business for many syndicates with most of the victims having refused to file complaints.
In many cases, the PNP-AKG failed to detect the payment of ransom since the kidnappers were using the ‘black market’ or were asking families of their hostages to pay ransom money thru wire transfer.
However, Estomo said there has been a significant decrease in casino-related kidnappings in the country since the government enforced the strict Enhanced Community Quarantine, temporarily stop the operations of casinos and even ordered a travel ban on foreigners.
The PNP-AKG has been cited for its string of accomplishments in fighting KFR gangs as well as POGO and casino kidnappers and accounting for wanted persons nationwide despite the pandemic.
Last December 5, PNP-AKG and Quezon City Police District agents shot dead two heavily-armed members of the notorious Waray-Waray KFR Gang involved in robbery, gunrunning and illegal drug activities in Metro Manila following a shootout in Barangay Bagong Silangan, Q.C. Seized from the slain suspects were two loaded caliber .45 pistols.
The day before, AKG Mindanao Field Unit and Police Regional Office 9 agents arrested a wanted KFR and extortion gang member in Zamboanga peninsula during an operation in Zamboanga City.
Last December 3, AKG-MFU operatives arrested a wanted New People’s Army member facing a rape case in Iligan City with no bail recommended.
On December 3, AKG-MFU officers shot dead a wanted Abu Sayyaf bandit during a gunbattle in Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte. The slain suspect who yielded a cal. .45 pistol was found to be involved in at least three KFR cases in Zamboanga del Norte since March 2017.
On December 1, AKG agents also hauled to jail a most wanted rape suspect in Iloilo during an operation in Bacoor City, Cavite.
Estomo said they have discovered that many of the suspects they have arrested were Chinese nationals believed looking for targets who are mostly POGO workers.
All three suspects are now being held at the PNP-AKG lock-up facility in Camp Crame
Over the past few years, the government has been saddled by problems regarding the presence of Chinese-led kidnapping-for-ransom gangs going after their compatriots in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
This prompted the PNP-AKG and the Department of Justice to join hands with different law enforcement counterparts to arrest growing incidents of casino-related kidnappings and later, cases of Chinese and Taiwanese nationals who ended up being kidnapped after becoming disgruntled with their work in POGO companies in Metro Manila.
Department of Justice Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony D. Fadullon called for a “whole-of-nation” approach to stop the growing incidents of casino-related kidnappings during a historic anti-kidnapping summit organized by PNP-AKG last year.
“The attention of the local authorities are being diverted to casino-related kidnappings which is just a coercive scheme of loan sharks in collecting the borrowed money by the bettor-victims, from real kidnapping cases wherein the families of the victims and the victims themselves are more than willing to push through a case against the kidnappers and consequently have them punished in accordance with the law,” said Fadullon, also the chairman of the Anti-Kidnapping Task Force.Publication Source : People's Journal