GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 March) – Police operatives arrested in Sultan Kudarat Wednesday an alleged member of a kidnap-for-ransom group who had been tagged in the daring kidnapping last November of a wealthy trader in Sto. Niño town in South Cotabato.
Supt. Barney Condes, intelligence and investigation chief of the South Cotabato provincial police office, said they captured suspect Pendatun Kusa in a joint police operation in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat province around 6:45 a.m. Wednesday.
He said Kusa, who carried the aliases Pini and Tatak, was riding a red Yamaha XRM 125 motorcycle with license plate YH 8487 when they cornered him in front of an eatery located along the national highway in Tacurong City.
“He (Kusa) had been positively identified by several witnesses as among those who participated in the abduction of Mrs. Grace Eleuterio in Sto. Niño town last November 14,” he said in a radio interview.
At least six heavily-armed men led by a certain Kumander Toks earlier stormed a store and transport terminal owned by the Eleuterio family in Poblacion in Sto. Niño town and seized the victim.
The terminal is the main base of the Eleuterio-managed Denmark Transport Cooperative, which operates a fleet of passenger vans plying this city and key areas in Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato provinces.
The suspects initially opened fire inside the transport terminal, killing one of the employees identified as Melvin Fontillon, 21, and wounded Dennis Eleuterio, the kidnap victim’s husband.
She was released unharmed by the kidnappers five days later in a remote village in Bagumbayan town in Sultan Kudarat after her family allegedly paid an undisclosed ransom.
Condes said they tracked down the suspect based on reports provided by their informants in the area.
He said they decided to bring in the suspect, in coordination with elements from the Tacurong City police station and the South Cotabato Police Public Safety Company, after confirming his identity.
Police earlier described the suspects in the Eleuterio kidnapping as part of a lawless armed group responsible for a string of armed robberies and criminal activities in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces in the past several years.
According to police records, Kusa was earlier charged with kidnapping and murder in connection with the Eleuterio abduction.
The charges were docketed as case number 5435 before the sala of Regional Trial Court Judge Roberto Ayco in Surallah town in South Cotabato.
Condes said the suspect is currently in their custody pending the ongoing tactical interrogation.
“We’re trying to establish the identity of the other suspects and their possible whereabouts through some initial information from the suspect,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)