GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 Jan) – Police operatives arrested at least seven suspected members of an alleged kidnap-for-ransom gang while they were reportedly plotting a kidnapping operation here Monday afternoon.
Supt. Rolly Octavio, deputy city police director for operations, said Tuesday the suspects were separately nabbed Monday while they were about to enter the city aboard an L-300 van and at an alleged safehouse near the city’s downtown area.
“We initially received a tip from our intelligence sources that a group of armed men aboard a white L-300 van is about to pull off a kidnapping operation so we immediately alerted all our units,” he said in a radio interview.
Octavio said three of the suspects were intercepted at a police checkpoint in Barangay Apopong here aboard a white L-300 van with plate number MBH-138.
He said other four alleged members of the group were later nabbed in a raid at their supposed safehouse in Purok San Vicente in Barangay Labangal.
Octavio said they recovered three .45 caliber handguns from the possession of the suspects, who were identified in a police report as Datu Sultan Tongal, Abdullah Salindatu, Ting Cepe, Muhalidin Paguilan, Musib Indal, Randy Zamora and Joemar Guiamat.
Guiamat is reportedly a member of the Civil Security Unit of Maasim town in Sarangani Province.
Senior Supt. Cedrick Train, city police director, said the suspects are currently undergoing tactical interrogation at the city police headquarters at the Camp Fermin Lira here.
He said they initially checked the registration of the recovered L-300 van but the Land Transportation Office declared that its engine and chassis numbers were not on their list.
“They may be using a hot vehicle as it appears that the engine and chassis numbers were tampered,” Train said.
The police official said they received information that one of the arrested suspects was allegedly involved in the daring kidnapping last November 14 of businesswoman Grace Eleuterio in Sto. Nino town in South Cotabato.
Eleuterio was freed by the kidnappers several days later at a portion of Bagumbayan town in Sultan Kudarat after her family allegedly paid an undetermined amount as ransom.
Train said that based on intelligence reports, the arrested suspects were allegedly targeting to abduct at least five prominent businessmen in the city.
“We actually slowed down their movements here because of the tight security measures that we’ve put in place following an upsurge of kidnappings in Cotabato City,” he said.
City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio lauded the arrest of the suspected kidnappers saying it clearly shows that the security measures and intelligence networks put up by the local police have been working.
Last November 4, local grains trader William Ang Go was seized by at least four armed men inside his office in Barangay Dadiangas Heights here but was recovered three hours later by pursuing policemen and village watchmen at the outskirts of the city.
Police said the kidnappers were forced to abandon Go at a portion of Barangay San Jose due to the mounting pressure then from pursuing policemen, the village’s watchmen and other law enforcement units that responded to the scene. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)