When a powerful local politician – wanted for alleged links to illegal drugs and high-powered firearms – was nowhere to be found last year, President Duterte seemed so incensed that he offered a P5-million reward to intensify the nationwide manhunt for the elusive fugitive.
“Kung wala kayong magawa, off duty, mag suri-suri kayo sa bukid, hunting-in ninyo ‘yan (If you have nothing to do, are off duty, look around in the fields, hunt him down). That’s 5 million,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech to soldiers on Sept. 1, 2017 during the 11th anniversary celebration of the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City.
The object of the manhunt was the very elusive Ozamiz City councilor Ricardo Parojinog – considered to be the “last man standing” of the once powerful Parojinog clan’s top echelon – who escaped a bloody police raid on July 30, 2017 that resulted in the death of his older brother, Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., and 15 other people.
The police chief of Ozamiz City said the councilor was so elusive that his capture “was a challenge for the team as he changed vehicles every now and then.” The target couldn’t be located despite intensified search and a lookout bulletin issued by the Justice Department.
About nine months went by since President Duterte declared the P5-million bounty, yet it still seemed Parojinog vanished from the face of the earth – until a surprise announcement that Taiwan authorities had arrested the fugitive last May 23 in Pingtung County, Southern Taiwan.
The elusive councilor had apparently fled to the Philippines’ closest neighbor to the north and could have remained in hiding were it not for alert Taiwan authorities who pounced on him when his illegal entry/stay was discovered. He was eventually brought back to the Philippines last July 27.
Taiwan’s capture of the Philippine fugitive is another example of how the island nation has been helping many countries fight and solve cross-border crimes, despite being left out of Interpol for 34 years now, as a result of the apparent bullying by China in pursuit of the One-China policy.
Since 2009, police agencies of Taiwan “have collaborated with counterparts overseas to resolve 235 cases and arrest more than 12,000 suspects involved in organized fraud as well as transnational trafficking of drugs and persons, including children,” according to a 2016 report of Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, now headed by Commissioner Tsai Tsan-Po.
Other accomplishments of Taiwan authorities include helping Thai police in a widespread crackdown on economic crime, recovering 120 million baht (US$3.69 million) in illicit funds; interception of over US$60 million in stolen funds following a cyber attack on a local bank; and solving a US$2.2-million ATM heist in the country perpetrated by 22 foreign nationals in July 2016, which gained the interest of European countries.
As I wrote in Part 1 of this article, Commissioner Tsai said “Taiwan has spared no effort to combat cross-border crime over the years and has solved many criminal cases in collaboration with law enforcement agencies of other countries.”
But amid Taiwan’s accomplishments which earned international praise and recognition, efforts to create a seamless global security network in line with Interpol’s vision of “connecting police for a safer world” is undermined because of a major gap in intelligence sharing, as a result of Taiwan’s exclusion from Interpol.
“It lacks timely access to key intelligence shared via the I-24/7 global police communications system and the affiliated database concerning stolen and lost travel documents. This has seriously hampered Taiwan’s ability to implement security checks at its borders and fight against terrorism, human trafficking, and other transnational crimes,” Commissioner Tsai explained. “Its long-term exclusion from Interpol has led to delays and disparity in the exchange of critical information… creating a major gap in the global security and counterterrorism network.”
Countries ought to support Taiwan in its bid to participate, even as Observer, in the upcoming 87th Interpol General Assembly on November 18 to 21 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The world owes Taiwan a lot for its immense help in fighting cross-border crime. Without Taiwan’s participation, Interpol’s aim of “connecting police for a safer world” would never be fully achieved.