PHILIPPINE National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) director, Brigadier General Jonnel C. Estomo yesterday announced the arrest of a woman suspected to have masterminded the kidnapping-for-ransom of a 21-year old student while he was biking in New Manila, Quezon City last New Year’s Eve.
The victim identified as James Elijah Yap was released unharmed by his captors around 9:25 p.m. last January 5 near a 7-Eleven convenience store along Marcelino Street in Ermita, Manila after paying a P1.505 million ransom to the kidnappers, said PNP-AKG director, Brigadier Gen. Jonnel C. Estomo.
“The kidnappers’ initial demand was P200 million but later reduced it to P1.5 million during a series of negotiations we monitored,” said Estomo during a press conference at Camp Crame.
According to the PNP-AKG director, 12 AKG teams monitored the conduct of the payoff and managed to identify several motor vehicles used by the kidnappers, one of them a 2018 model Mitsubishi Strada with plate no. COA 7874.
He said that the occupants of the pickup took the ransom money along Bgy. Malamig Highway in Bustos, Bulacan 3:59 p.m. last January 5 not knowing that AKG operatives were watching from a distance.
The kidnappers later released their captive in Ermita, Manila 9:25 p.m. of the same day. “The victim is now safe and reunited with his family,” said Estomo.
The official said the registered owner of the pickup identified as Ma. Rachel Erica Gonzales, a resident of 135-B Miniville Subdivision in Flameno, Obando, Bulacan was arrested during a follow-up operation.
“She confessed to have masterminded the young student’s kidnapping,” Estomo said.
Still being hunted is the woman’s husband John Paolo, one Emil Mangali Ocampo alias ‘Bad Boy,’ one alias ‘Ren,’ one Paquito Diaz Gabad alias’ Buda’ and one alias ‘Batman.’
Estomo said they have also identified several vehicles used in the kidnapping, one of them a Nissan Urvan whose registered owners appeared at the PNP-AKG headquarters in Camp Crame and made an affidavit that their vehicle was used by John Paolo Gonzales last December 31.
The van belonging to the couple resembled the vehicle captured on CCTV cameras during the kidnapping of the victim along 11th Street in Bgy. Mariana, New Manila, Q.C. around 1:30 p.m. last December 31.
Six men snatched the victim while he was riding his bike. Responding policemen found the victim’s bike and slippers on the roadside.
Sinas and his men last week appealed to the media not to report the New Year’s Eve kidnapping story which circulated on Facebook for fear that any further media report will prompt the kidnappers to kill or harm the victim during negotiations.
Estomo said they deliberately withheld information on the ‘live kidnapping’ case since the life of the young Yap was at stake.
“However, we thoroughly investigated the case with the cooperation of the victim’s family and all concerned. During the payoff, we finally had the idea who will be our targets. Nakuha namin ang plaka during actually payoff, marami kaming nakuhang information sa mga ginamit na ibang sasakyan at nakuha namin ang safehouse ng mga kidnappers,” he said.
Estomo said that Gonzales confessed to be the ‘brains’ behind the kidnapping during questioning.
“This is a simple criminal gang. In fact, we found out that the suspects were targeting another victim last Christmas pero hindi nila nakuha. Nung New Year’s Eve, natsambahan lang nila ang biktima habang nagba-bike,” he said.
VICTIM ALL PRAISES FOR PNP WORK
The victim and his family thanked Sinas and his men for doing their best to help secure the safe release of the victim without endangering his life and for making the arrest.
“On behalf of my family and myself, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for everything the AKG has done with regards to my kidnapping since last December 31,” said James as he thanked all PNP-AKG officers and men involved in the investigation of his case.
“I did not know about the AKG nor had I ever had reason to turn to law enforcement before my abduction. Throughout my captivity, I did not think my family would be able to find help because my abductors told me again and again they would harm us if we went to the police, that we would have to face this problem alone. But they were wrong. Since my release, it has been a revelation for me to witness the work of the AKG to combat the kidnapping problem in the Philippines, to safeguard our community, and to bring people to justice,” he said.
“I thank all the officers for their competence, diligence, determination, and bravery. While we are still away the resolution of this case, I have found assurance in knowing what the AKG has achieved for my sake and for other kidnapping vicitms as well beyond any doubt, you embody and fulfill the purpose of the PNP to Serve and Protect,” the victim added.