TALIÑO AFFIRMS: KMAFIA EXISTS
The recent pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte tagging Cebu as the seat of “Korean mafia” in the country got everyone talking about how something so big and serious had remained undetected for years.
After initially saying there was no evidence to show that the Korean mafia did operate in Cebu, Cebu’s top police authority, Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO 7) director Chief Supt. Noli Taliño yesterday revealed that a South Korean embassy official has confirmed that the mafia’s members had operated in Cebu.
Taliño, quoting the Korean embassy’s police attaché whom he refused to identify, said the Korean Mafia had operated in Cebu since 2009 even as no movement had been detected from the group since after 2014.
Taliño had a closed-door meeting with the Korean Consul in Cebu and the Korean embassy’s police attaché on Monday afternoon, hours after President Duterte told reporters in Davao City on Saturday night that the Korean Mafia operates “strongest” in Cebu, running drug and prostitution rings.
According to Taliño, the height of the Korean mafia’s operation in Cebu was between 2009 and 2013, marked by the killing and the burning of the bodies of two Korean nationals.
It was after this incident that a police attaché was assigned by the South Korean government to its consulate in Cebu.
He said the Korean police attaché has since been working closely with PRO 7 leadership, forcing the mafia to cease operating on the island.
However, it is likely that a number of the mafia’s members are still in hiding in Cebu and who have just gone deeper underground, as no illicit operation by the group had been detected by the police since 2014.
“Ang sabi ng Korean police baka nandito sila nagtatago pero hindi nag-ooperate. So yun yong bina-validate ng ating kapulisan ngayon kung may operation pa sila,” Talino said.
(The Korean police said that maybe they are still in Cebu hiding, but they have not been operating. We are now validating if indeed they have ceased to operate.)
The validation is being done by PRO-7’s Regional Intelligence Division (RID 7) alongside with the South Korean police, said Taliño.
On Nov. 19, 2013, two Korean nationals were found dead inside a burned down Hyundai Santa Fe in Barangay Sabang, Danao City.
The Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) then believed that both bodies found inside the car were victims of summary execution.
Taliño said the incident was not directly attributed to the Korean mafia but there were prior series of crimes involving the mafia that led them to believe that the incident was the handiwork of the shady group.
According to Taliño, they were now retracing their steps and reviewing all past cases in Cebu that involved South Korean nationals to determine if they had links to a Korean mafia.
The review will also include the action taken by the police on these cases, said Taliño.
Taliño revealed he had heard about the Korean mafia and its operation in Cebu since he assumed his post here last year, but so far no solid lead on where and how they operate.
He said there was also no indication that local policemen had been protecting the mafia, particularly after the group decided to lie low in 2014.
Korean consular statement
The Consulate of the Republic of Korea in Cebu, in a statement released yesterday, said they have not received any evidence or data from the Philippine government that supported Duterte’s recent pronouncement on the existence of Korean mafia involved in illegal drugs and prostitution in the province.
“The Consulate had always been in constant communication with the local police and military in Central Visayas, but this matter was never brought to our attention before,” said the official statement signed by Korean Consul General Sung Yong Oh.
Oh emphasized that majority of the Koreans in Cebu respect and abide by the law of the country.
There are about 25,000 to 30,000 South Koreans living in Cebu as of 2015, while about half a million South Korean tourists have visited Cebu last year.
Oh, however, noted that despite the large number of South Koreans who live or have visited Cebu, no murder incident involving a Korean national has occurred in Cebu since 2014, which, he said, showed that the Korean community in Cebu is peaceful.
“Nevertheless, we should not lose focus on the fact that Korean Jee Ick-joo was murdered by policemen inside Camp Crame. We trust that the perpetrators will be held fully responsible for it in order to give justice to the victim,” Oh said.
“We believe that these recent developments will not hamper the mutual relations between Philippines and Korea,” the Consul General further stated.
Cebu Daily News tried to get Taliño’s statement regarding the official statement released by the South Korean Consulate in Cebu, but he did not answer the calls. A text message sent to him was also left unanswered.
Earlier, Taliño had clarified it was the Korean Police that had confirmed that some members of the Korean mafia are hiding in Cebu since they are wanted in their own country.
“But ine-emphasize ng Korean consul yung Koreans nandito very peaceful yung kanilang pamumuhay. For the past years wala naman kidnapping involve ang Koreans,” Taliño said.
(But the Korean Consul emphasized that the Koreans in Cebu are living peacefully. For the past years, there were no Koreans involved in a kidnapping incident).
Taliño, likewise, affirmed that the Korean police have committed their full support and cooperation to monitor and track down the members of this shadowy organization.
With Koreans topping the list of foreign visitors coming in to the country, in Cebu in particular, Provincial Tourism Officer Boboi Costas believed it would, in a way, affect the Korean community in Cebu to the point of making them re-think their travel plans.
As Koreans are also reportedly victimized by the Korean mafia who allegedly operates illegal drug trades and prostitution rings, Costas said Koreans should also be cautious about the suspicious activities of their compatriots.
Costas said the Korean community will be most likely affected by the pronouncement since Korean tourists give a premium to the security of an area, as can be observed in their preference to travel in groups as opposed to traveling alone.
“(The) characteristics (of) Korean tourists is that they really pay attention to the security. That’s why, if you notice, Koreans don’t travel alone. They’re by groups. With that alone, you can really say that they pay attention to the security of an area. If you notice, Koreans love nature, but if you look at it, they just like to go to the beach and then shopping malls. That’s why they don’t really venture out by their lonesome, going to the mountains. Although there are also other Koreans who would love to go to on a nature trip, they go in groups,” said Costas partly in Cebuano.
Costas added that local government units should also exercise vigilance and immediately report to the authorities anything that they see as suspicious in the activities of Koreans who are living or just visiting Cebu.
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