‘Kidnapping’ alarm sparks arrests; six suspects claim they sold books

By Nestle L. Semilla March 18,2017
 Friends of the alleged kidnappers rushed to the Minglanilla Police Station upon hearing news of the incident. They brought with them food to help comfort their friends whom they say were wrongfully accused. CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO

Friends of the alleged kidnappers rushed to the Minglanilla Police Station upon hearing news of the incident. They brought with them food to help comfort their friends whom they say were wrongfully accused. CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO

MINGLANILLA TOWN

Six persons, three of them women, were arrested by Minglanilla policemen after they were accused of attempting to kidnap four girls, all elementary school pupils, at around noontime on Thursday.

Minglanilla Police Chief Dexter Calacar said that the arrest came after the kids’ parents and a teacher reported the alleged attempt to kidnap the young girls who were classmates at the Minglanilla Central School.

Based on the account of the grade 4 pupils, aged 9-11 years old, they were about to enter the school gate from taking their lunch outside of campus when one of the suspects approached them and asked where the guava vendor was.

“Nangutana usa sa mga suspect asa daw tong namaligya og bayabas. Gibunlot sa usa ka suspect nga mahuyang kadtong 9-year-old nga Grade 4 dayon ni ana ang bata pasakyon daw sila sa van,” Calacar said.

(One of the suspects asked where vendor of the guava was. The suspect, a gay man, then grabbed the hand of the 9-year-old Grade 4 student. The kids

claimed that they were ordered to ride the van.)

An L300 white van was said to have waited as the suspects tried to get the girls inside the vehicle. But the girl was able to free herself from the man’s grip.

Though scared, the four girls run into their classroom and reported the incident to their teacher.

Suspected kidnappers

A follow-up operation conducted by Minglanilla police operatives, led police to neighboring Naga City, 23.4 kilometers away from the town, some nine hours after the reported kidnapping attempt.

Calacar said at around 9:30 p.m. of the same day, they spotted the van used by the suspects parked outside a house rented by the group.

Police immediately rounded up Rheamay Sagmon, Estela Montes, James Kevie Paradela, Marian Serenio, Reymart Abobo and Federico dela Cruz.

The suspects, who are believed to have come from areas in Cebu, Manila, Eastern Samar, and Mindanao, are between 18 to 25 years old, police said.

Quick response

Prior to the incident, Calacar called a meeting last Monday with the heads and principals of all primary and secondary schools in Minglanilla amid reports of attempted kidnapping incidents in neighboring areas like Naga.

“Mga attempted kidnappings sa other municipalities unya kinahanglan aware and vigilant ta nga possible maabot sa Minglanilla. Kay naa na baya trauma sa Minglanilla mao gyud na among gihisgutan,” Calacar said.

(There had been reports of attempted kidnappings in other municipalities. We needed to be vigilant and make people aware that this could possibly happen in Minglanilla because the people in Minglanilla are already traumatized.)

Calacar was alluding to the case of six-year-old Ella Joy Pique who was brutally killed in 2011 after she was abducted in front of the Calajoan Elementary School in Minglanilla.

Because the students are aware of this issue, they are hesitant to talk to strangers and are quick to report incidents, said Calacar.

Unfairly accused

Interviewed by Cebu Daily News at the Minglanilla police station where they are currently detained, the suspects branded the accusation as “unfair,” claiming that the parents have it all wrong.

According to Abobo, a 20-year-old suspect, they were legitimate sales representatives of a book distribution company.

“Hindi namin sinisisi ang mga bata kasi naging aware lang sila. Tama naman yun. Pero over acting na ang mga tao. Paano na maibabalik yung (dignity) namin? Dinidiin nila kami dito,” Abobo said.

(We are not blaming the children because they are just aware of their surroundings. It’s just right. But the people are over acting. How can we bring back our dignity? They are pinning the blame on us.)

Abobo offered to talk to the parents to settle the issue, adding that he will file charges against those who wrongfully accused them.

NO I.D.

The suspects claimed to be employees of Cyclophil Education Promotion under Grolier Philippines Distribution.

But as of yesterday afternoon, Calacar said that the suspects had yet to show identification cards to prove that they were indeed employed by the company.

“Ilahang claim nga naa silay business nga books gi-consider pud na nato. But wala silay ID so far nga gipakita. Naa silay pictures nga naay books, bookstands but no IDs,” Calacar said.

(They claim that they are in the business of selling books. We considered that. But they have not shown us any IDs. Just pictures with books and bookstands but no IDs.)

Jennelyn Demo, who introduced herself as the manager of Cyclophil in Cebu, went to the Minglanilla Police Station to vouch for the six suspects.

“Kasamahan namin sila. Mali ang information na kidnapper sila. Kasama ko nga yung isang konsehal ng Naga na magpapatunay na hindi sila masamang tao,” Demo said.

(They are my colleagues. People have the wrong information that they are kidnappers. I even brought a Naga councilor to the police to help vouch that they are good people.)

Calacar said that police have yet to investigate further whether the case would fall under an attempted kidnapping or not.

For now, they could only file charges for alleged violation of Republic Act 7610 or the anti-child abuse law, Calacar added.

“Na-traumatize man g’yud ang bata. Child abuse lang atong ma-file sa unom. But depende gihapon sa investigation,” Calacar said.

(The children were really traumatized. We will file child abuse against all six But it will still depend on the investigation.)

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