I’M saying this in the wake of the presence of a number of Filipino-Chinese kidnapping-for-ransom victims who were really not afraid to show their faces and bravely confronted their tormentors in courts.
Kudos too to members of the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order, officers and men of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group and of course, the Department of Justice prosecutors who did not move an inch just to ensure that kidnappers won’t have no place in the country but in jail.
On Friday, I was present when PNP chief, General Gilor Eleazar met Genevieve Ong Sy, a Filipino-Chinese trader who became a victim of kidnapping-for-ransom in 2004 but was rescued two days after her abduction by members of the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response of PACER, now known as the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group.
It was a reunion of sorts since a young Police Colonel Gilor Eleazar was among those who testified in court against the accused. Hours before they met, a Quezon City court sentenced to life imprisonment eight kidnappers of Sy who was rescued by PACER agents at the kidnappers’ safehouse in Antipolo City.
Also present at the meeting were two of my fellow PNP-AKG Advisory Council members, MRPO chairman, Architect Ka Kuen Chua and DOJ Deputy State Prosecutor Olive Torrrevillas –the feisty lady prosecutor who did a very good job in prosecuting the accused, as well as PNP-AKG director, the soon-to-be Brigadier Gen. Rudolph Dimas of PNP Academy Class 1992; another former AKG adviser William Ho and DOJ Prosecutor Dang Teoxson-Yanga.
During their first face-to-face meeting after more than a dozen years, Sy thanked Gen. Eleazar for his testimony which was one of the basis in convicting the accused. Ka Kuen Chua told me that Eleazar’s works at the PACER is well appreciated by their members that all of them cheered when President Duterte picked him as the country’s 26th PNP chief.
It was a happy reunion indeed since nobody thought in 2004 that an officer named Gilor Eleazar would become a PNP chief. Thus, after 17 years of a protracted court battle, the accused were convicted thanks to brave testimonies from Sy, the likes of Eleazar and the solid pieces of evidence and witnesses gathered by our anti-kidnapping group.
Judge Ma. Luisa Gonzales-Betic of the Q.C. Regional Trial Court Branch 225 sentenced the suspects, two of them active members of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group when they committed the crime, to life imprisonment without eligibility of parole. The verdict was announced via zoom.
Gen. Eleazar hailed the court decision as he met the PNP-AKG, DOJ and MRPO teams as well as Sy in his office. 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 PACER.
The PNP chief 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.
I learned from the PNP-AKG 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, with Monares deemed to have served her sentence. 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.
A veteran PACER operative who worked with Eleazar in the early 2000, Dimas told me that 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.
PNP-AKG records showed that on March 18, 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, Rolex watch, cash and personal belongings before being taken to a safehouse in Fairview, Q.C. and later transferred to another kidnappers’ safehouse in Antipolo City. The victim’s family paid the kidnappers a P500,000 ransom somewhere in Q.C. until 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,” Gen. 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. I learned that during the trial, Sy bravely 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 Q.C. RTC Branch 219, the case was transferred to the Q.C. RTC Branch 225 after the first judge inhibited from hearing the case. The MRPO said some of the accused admitted their participation in 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 and 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.
Thru this piece, I would like to congratulate and thank all the persons who worked to ensure the conviction of the kidnappers and prevent them from snatching more preys had they were not arrested and jailed. Full credit also goes to the PACER and PNP-AKG officers and men, the MRPO and of course, Prosecutor Olive. That was really one hell of a 17-year job.