A QUEZON City court on Friday sentenced to life imprisonment eight kidnappers of a Filipino-Chinese businesswoman in Manila in 2004 in a case which saw a future Philippine National Police chief, then young Colonel Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar himself testifying against the accused in court.
After 17 years of a protracted court battle, the accused in the kidnapping-for-ransom of Genevieve Ong Sy, two of them former members of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), were meted the life term by Judge Ma. Luisa Gonzalez-Betic of the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 225. The verdict was announced via zoom.
Eleazar hailed the court decision as he met with Sy and members of the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) chaired by Architect Ka Kuen Chua, PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) director Colonel Rudolph B. Dimas and the team of Department of Justice Prosecutors led by Deputy State Prosecutor Olivia I. Laroza-Torrevillas hours after the announcement of the verdict.
It was a joyful reunion for the group specifically between Eleazar and Sy who profusely thanked the PNP chief for leading the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response or PACER team that rescued her.
At the time of the Sy kidnapping, Eleazar was then a field grade officer assigned as chief of the Investigation and Case Monitoring Division of the now defunct PACER, now known as the PNP AKG.
Eleazar himself testified in court as a prosecution witness during earlier proceedings of this landmark case, considered as among the longest kidnapping cases prosecuted in the history of the PNP.
Dimas, who is set to get is star-rank very soon, reported to Eleazar that the court found suspects Romeo Ayson, Clayton Patingan, Alberto Culanag, Romeo Aruta, Jose Olbato, Jaime Tolevas, Edwin Castillo and Sebastian Magaipo guilty of the crime of kidnapping for ransom and were sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua without eligibility of parole.
Two other accused identified as Pepe Bihag and Lolita Monares were acquitted by the court. Five other arrested suspects identified as Mary Ann Angcahan, Julien Madrid, Janeth Patilona, Clifftor Langcao and Eric Pa-o were released in 2016 following a plea-bargaining agreement.
According to Dimas, Patingan and Ayson were the two PNP-CIDG members who were arrested by the PACER during the rescue of Sy and subsequent follow-up operations which netted a total of 15 suspects.
Dimas himself used to be a veteran PACER operative who worked with Eleazar.
PNP-AKG records showed that on March 19, 2004, Sy was driving her Mitsubishi Lancer along Severino Street in Sta. Cruz, Manila when she was abducted by three armed men.
The victim was first divested of her jewelry, cash and personal belongings before being taken to a safehouse in Fairview, QC and later transferred to another kidnapper’s safehouse in Antipolo City.
The victim’s family paid the kidnappers a P500,000 ransom somewhere in QC and she was rescued unharmed by PACER operatives the following day.
“Although it took 17 years for the case to reach its logical conclusion, what is more important is that justice prevailed eventually and the criminals have been put away,” Eleazar said.
The Sy family sought the help of the MRPO whose members provided immediate assistance with the help of the PACER leading to the ransom negotiation, the rescue operation and the follow-up operations.
During the trial, Sy identified all her kidnappers and gave their respective participation in her abduction.
“With testimonial evidence of the operatives of the AKF (PACER), including the now PNP Chief Guillermo Eleazar, together with the evidence recovered and the positive identification of the kidnappers, the bail petitions of some of the accused were denied by the court,” said the MRPO in a statement.
From the QC RTC Branch 219, the case was transferred to the QC RTC Branch 225 after the first judge inhibited from hearing the case. The MRPO said some of the accused admitted their participation into the case and entered into plea bargaining agreement but most of them claimed innocence saying, among others, that they were in some other places when the kidnapping took place.
Circumstances such as the number of accused and their respective counsels, changes in presiding judges, the unavailability of judges and witnesses, the COVID-19 pandemic, among others, resulted in the delay of 17 years, the longest since the MRPO was founded in 1993 and started court watch to support victims in the course of the trial of their cases, said the MRPO.