I COULDN’T believe my ears when my friend who is a resident of the wealthy enclave told me that. Even the rich can’t be safe in their own houses, in an expensively secured subdivision?
While it wasn’t reported on the village’s association website nor in its Facebook page, the Philippine Daily Inquirer did report it, first on October 31 (“6 Chinese abducted in Muntinlupa”) and then on November 1 (“6 abducted Chinese still missing”) — although it was strange the headlines didn’t say “Alabang,” which they knew would have caught more attention. Several tabloids also reported it.
I suspect the kidnapping would have been kept under wraps by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and a section of media that it has compromised. It was not the Manila-based reporters who filed the report but a correspondent in Lucena City.
This was because after six armed men barged into the Ayala Alabang residence at Champaca Street of one Ceng Chi Liang, the owner, five other Chinese, and three Filipinos under the employ of the former, were loaded into a Hi-Ace Commuter van, which headed south.
The kidnappers freed the three Filipinos in Calauan, Batangas; the freed hostages were warned not to report the incident. However, they promptly sought the help of officials of the barangay where they were freed, who took them to the Police Regional Office.
If the three had not been bold enough to report the kidnapping, the police certainly would not have known of it. Indeed, as I wrote in my column on October 27 (“Chinese businessmen spooked by kidnapping”), my sources claim that kidnappings in Metro Manila have been drastically rising but have gone unreported by the victims, relatives, and even the police. According to the police records, kidnappings increased only slightly from 38 in 2021 to 41 in 2022, and just 20 cases so far this year.
The PNP has been sensitive over the reports of rising kidnappings. The day after my column on this came out, PNP Anti-Kidnaping Group director BGen. Cosme Abrenica called a press conference and presented his figures that show the decline in incidents. He admitted, though, that “there are some cases that are really not reported to us, so we are not able to address it.” He added: “It could be that there are some cases that are really not reported to us, so we are not able to address it.”
The main targets, I was told, were Chinese nationals and Chinese Filipinos. This may be mainly due to the fact that the kidnappers are also Chinese nationals who were with the offshore gaming operators. When the gaming operations were closed down, they turned to kidnapping and found it a lucrative, even easy crime. My sources, though, claimed that the spike in the kidnapping of Chinese was also due to an organized crime group — one of whom had even served time in the Muntinlupa national penitentiary. This group, the sources claimed, has developed close relations with ranking PNP officials.
Half a month after the Alabang kidnapping occurred, the PNP has not reported at all whatever happened to the victims. No report on the case, whether it was fake news or not, has been made by any newspaper. Even media did not follow up on the case.
What shocked Chinese Filipino businessmen about the Alabang kidnapping is that this is the second such incident in that posh village in a year’s time. In November last year, 10 men who posed as agents of the National Bureau of Investigation kidnapped another Chinese businessman and demanded P40 million. The businessman’s driver, however, managed to call the security guards, who, with the help of the police, apprehended the criminals.
In this more recent case, the kidnappers broke open the residence’s gates and forced their way into the house. How could that happen in an upper-class subdivision?
“In Pasay condominiums where many Chinese Filipino businessmen live, their lobbies are filled with bodyguards,” a source claimed. “The rise in kidnapping is being ignored probably because authorities think they’re rich anyway and are foreigners after all,” he said.
One interpretation of the problem is that PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda assumed that post only in April and will be retiring on December 3. “He probably just wants a quiet ride to retirement,” a source said. “And even if he wants to, his men will be ignoring him already since he’ll be gone soon.”
“But this is not just about the Chinese,” a Chinese Filipino said. If President Marcos doesn’t stop the kidnappings — a thing of the ancient past in most Asian nations now — the country won’t see much investments from any nationality.”
The joke going around in the Agriculture department goes like this: “The former secretary had a special diploma. The current one has no diploma.”
The joke refers to the fact that Marcos’ rivals during the elections had been harping that he received only a “Special Diploma in Social Studies” and did not earn a Bachelor of Arts, the formal college degree that he had earlier claimed he did.
The curriculum vitae, which is accessible on the internet of the new Agriculture secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, reports that he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Santo Tomas. The school newspaper, The Varsitarian, however, belied that claim, and in an article on November 12, quoted the university registrar’s office supervisor Reynaldo Isidro: “The Office of the Registrar and the accounting department did not find any record of enrollment in the university of the name Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr.”
A close relative of Laurel confirmed that he did not finish college and that the new Agriculture secretary is even proud that even if he finished only at the “university of hard knocks, ” he became a very successful businessman and in a very productive industry — fishing.
Most people wouldn’t care if a Cabinet member has a college degree or not as long as he does his job. However, some think that for Laurel to have constructed an elaborate and deliberate fib to impress people about having a “Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science” could be a red signal on his character.
There could also be a legal problem. In the “Prospectus” for the listing of Pure Energy Holdings, of which he is a director, he is reported as having a “Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Santo Tomas,” a detail only he could have provided the company. That misinformation could be a violation of RA 8799, the Securities Regulation Code.
So far, though, Laurel hasn’t given his side on the issue.
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