CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/22 September) — The kidnapping of a local businessman on Monday “may be related to the need for funds to bankroll some politicians’ campaigns for the upcoming national elections in 2013,” said an intelligence officer at the Police Regional Office, based in Camp Vicente Alagar, Barangay Lapasan.
Manuel Boniao, a dealer of agricultural supplies, was abducted on September 19 by still unidentified kidnappers.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the intelligence officer added that the practice of families of kidnap victims of paying “board and lodging” money, a euphemism for ransom, has emboldened the kidnap-for-ransom groups in the region to turn their criminal activities into a “cottage industry”.
“Of course we want them (kidnap victims’ families) to coordinate with us. We always advise the families not to pay ransom demands, and paying the abductors ‘board and lodging’ expenses they incurred while holding their loved ones captive is technically paying a ransom,” the police officer said.
“Remember that we are nearing an election year. Where do you think the money used to pay off voters, election officers during elections?” asked the police officer.
What aggravates the problem, the source added, is that kidnap victims in the region almost always refuse to cooperate with police authorities after they are released [by their abductors].
“For how many incidents, they (kidnap victims) refuse to coordinate with us after they are released. There is no debriefing of the victims which is very important because this is how we profile the KFR suspects in the region, putting the police in a lame duck position,” the officer said.
However, in a text message Wednesday, Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG 10) chief P/Chief Insp. Reynante Reyes denied there is already a ransom demand of P100 million as reported in local radio stations.
Six to eight men dressed in police “patrol” T-shirts abducted Boniao inside his store–People’s Agri Supply–in Barangay Gusa, around 10:30 am Monday. Security guards who witnessed the abduction said the kidnappers were armed with M16 rifles and .45 caliber pistols.
The modus operandi used in Boniao’s abduction was similar to that of Ozamis City-based businessman Alexander Lim in Linamon, Lanao del Norte where the abductors also wore the same attire. Lim’s abductors released him after more than a month in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur.
According to records at the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division (RIDMD 10), Boniao the second prominent businessman to be abducted in Northern Mindanao this year. Overall there are already six kidnap cases in the region this year and not a single suspect has been arrested so far.
Incidentally, Boniao’s store in Barangay Gusa is adjacent to a building whose previous owner, Benny Leongben Lee, was kidnapped and subsequently murdered in 1980. Lee’s kidnapping and murder has remained unsolved.
In an interview Thursday, Regional Intelligence Division chief Senior Supt. Noel Armilla said the lead agency now handling Boniao’s abduction is the Philippine Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (Pacer).
Meanwhile, Reyes, in a text message late evening Wednesday, said they have recovered the vehicle used in the Boniao abduction at about 4am Wednesday in Sitio Langga, Barangay San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon.
The red Mitsubishi Adventure, now with plate number KCF331, was spray-painted black using 22 cans of Pylox spray paint. The police officers found the vehicle parked by the highway facing toward Cagayan de Oro.
Found in the vehicle were six PNP blue patrol T-shirts, four PNP bull caps, one blue sleeveless shirt with bloodstains, 22 cans of spray paint, three bottles of lacquer thinner, one roll of tape, and one brown leather wallet. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)