By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan
MANILA — A suspected kidnapper was killed while four others were arrested in simultaneous police operations in Caloocan City and Bulacan against members of a kidnapping syndicate, which was tagged in various cases of unreported abduction of officials of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said Thursday.
Maj. Guillermo Eleazar, NCRPO chief, identified the slain suspect as Leo dela Fuente, 41, resident of Barangay Socorro in Quezon City, one of the targets of the five search warrants issued by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court against members of the group residing in several areas in Caloocan City and Marilao and San Jose del Monte in Bulacan.
Dela Fuente allegedly exchanged shots with policemen in a raid in the house of a certain Joever Garcia on Aster St., Residencia Regina, Barangay Loma de Gato, Marilao, Bulacan at around 2 a.m. Thursday.
He said dela Fuente was among the “main players” of the group and was involved in the actual kidnapping although he was not identified in the warrants.
Seized during the raid were eight firearms, including two M16 rifles, a hand grenade, three vehicles, and uniforms and other police accessories.
Eleazar said a thorough investigation will be conducted to identify the police and military personnel allegedly connected with the group.
“We have been monitoring this group for over a year because this is a group which is allegedly involved in the kidnapping of BIR officials,” said Eleazar.
Personnel from the NCRPO in coordination with the Central Luzon police regional office, Highway Patrol Group and PNP-Anti-Kidnapping Group conducted the simultaneous implementation of the said search warrants over alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives on Thursday morning.
The other targets were identified as Romeo Manalastas and Lloyd Antonio, who were not in the area during the raid.
Garcia eluded arrest although his wife and two children were arrested and denied involvement in any illegal activities.
Various firearms, ammunition and explosives and several vehicles which were allegedly being used in the group’s illegal activities were recovered during the raid.
Eleazar said that four other raids were conducted at the same time: two in Caloocan City and two more in Marilao and San Jose del Monte in Bulacan.
During the raid in the house of Romeo Manalastas in Marilao, police seized a handgun, several bullets, and magazines for various firearms that include for the M16 rifle, handheld radio, and police cap and jacket.
In a raid in another house of Garcia, in Barangay Muzon in San Jose del Monte, authorities confiscated a hand grenade, a shotgun, and a motorcycle.
Three suspects, identified as Rosalinda Garcia, Christine Joyce Garcia, and Joseph Nicholas Garcia Jr., were arrested.
Eleazar said that during the raid in the house of Lloyd Antonio in Sikatuna Avenue in Urduja Village in Caloocan City, his men seized a handgun and arrested 75-year old Julieto Tering, a retired government employee.
In a raid in another house of Manalastas, seized were two hand grenades, a .45 caliber pistol and police accessories.
Eleazar said they have been conducting case build-up against the group for at least a year already after receiving the alleged kidnapping of several BIR officials, which caught the attention of President Rodrigo Duterte.
He said the PNP has yet to receive any formal complaint from the BIR officials who were victimized by the group supposedly due to fear but they received intelligence information about it.
Eleazar said that they started working on the group after receiving reports of the series of kidnappings involving BIR officials, especially in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
The problem, according to Eleazar, is that the kidnapped BIR officials would not report the incident to the police.
He explained that they are having difficulty gathering information on the group because of the dearth of details since almost all of the victims would not report.
“This is the challenge for us for the past year since we discovered this. How are we able to obtain information or evidence? This is our breakthrough,” Eleazar said.
“There are reports that the ransom involves millions of pesos,” he added.
Aside from BIR officials, the group is also targeting businessmen.
Eleazar said with the pieces of evidence gathered in the raid, they will conduct an in-depth investigation on the group’s possible involvement in other illegal activities. He said they will also look over the possibility that policemen in active service and former cops or members of the military were in cahoots with the suspects, particularly in its kidnap-for-ransom activities.
Eleazar said that the usual modus of the group is to accost a victim for possible violation of the law using bogus police uniforms and police accessories.
The proof, he said, was the confiscated police uniforms and other materials belonging to the PNP.
“They have police and military members. We believe that some of these policemen and soldiers were already dismissed from the service, went on AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave) and some could be retired,” Eleazar said. (PNA)