FIRST, the good news: Kidnappings-for-ransom cases in the country have drastically gone down from 2018 to date. The bad news is that POGO and casino-related kidnappings have not died down with most of the kidnappers and the victims Asian nationals, majority of them Chinese last year.
These cases prompted Philippine National Police chief, General Debold M. Sinas to warn operators of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations or POGO from hiding information to the police when it comes to crime incidents taking place in their establishments specifically those involving their workers who are being victimized by kidnapping-for-ransom gangs.
On New Year’s Eve, agents of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group headed by Brigadier Gen. Jonnel C. Estomo rescued unharmed a kidnapped Taiwanese national and arrested two of his Chinese abductors during an anti-kidnapping operation in Imus City, Cavite.
According to the PNP chief, members of the PNP-AKG stormed the kidnappers’ safehouse at Villa Emmanuelle Town Homes in Bgy. Toclong 2B in Imus City 7:20 p.m. Thursday followng information forwarded to them by Colonel Jerry Wang, the Taiwan police attache’ in the country.
The information from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) represented by Wang led to the raid at the kidnappers’ safehouse where a team of PNP-AKG Luzon Field Unit operatives led by Colonel Villaflor Bannawagan and Major Erving Chan rescued Chen Yen Shau.
Two Chinese nationals identified as Lu Cheng and Xie Long Hui were arrested during the anti-kidnapping raid. Estomo said they received information that Chen called his mother in Taiwan to inform her he is being held captive and is being ‘beaten badly’ by his abductors.
The Taiwanese national reportedly was asked by his captors to tell his mother to pay the P9 million he owes from the suspects in exchange for his liberty.
Taiwan officials said Shau was abducted 1 p.m. last Wednesday in Parañaque City by a group of Chinese nationals who beat him in order to force him to contact his mother thru Facebook. Investigators said they are looking into reports that the victim was kidnapped when he aired his intention to leave a POGO company which hired him.
Estomo said his men first went to the Pearl Marina Tower located along Pacific Avenue in Parañaque City where they failed to find the victim.
A follow-up operation in Imus City led to the safe rescue of the Taiwanese national and the arrest of the two Chinese nationals who were found guarding him. During initial questioning, the victim positively identified the two Chinese as among his abductors and the ones who ‘tortured’ him.
Both suspects are now being held at the PNP-AKG lock-up facility in Camp Crame and facing criminal charges before the Department of Justice.
Wang, in behalf of TECO expressed his appreciation to Sinas for the PNP-AKG’s immediate effort to rescue Chen from his kidnappers.
“In behalf of the Taiwan police, I admire the excellent and matchless performance from the PNP-AKG which led to the successful rescue operation and effectiveness in delivering police services to the victim on the last day of 2020,” Wang said.
According to the Taiwan police attache, the PNP led by the Anti-Kidnapping Group has rescued more than 32 Taiwan nationals over the past three years.
Last November, Sinas warned POGO companies in the country to fully cooperate with the PNP-AKG and other police investigators following the arrest of three Chinese nationals for the kidnapping of a Vietnamese-Chinese in Angeles City, Pampanga.
“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 an 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 bared that PGO-related kidnapping cases slightly increased during the same period particularly since 2019 and the 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 fjthe 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,” the PNP-AKG director said.
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 in the country have given the country a negative image abroad prompting the PNP-AKG to further step-up its 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 used the ‘black market’ or asked 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 stopped the operations of casinos and ordered a travel ban on foreigners.
The PNP-AKG has been cited for its string of accomplishments in fighting KFR gangs and POGO and casino kidnappers and accounting for wanted persons nationwide despite the pandemic.
Estomo said they have discovered that many of the suspects they have arrested are Chinese nationals believed to be looking for targets who are mostly POGO workers.