MANILA, Philippines – Incidents of kidnapping-for-ransom (KFR) are on the rise as the Christmas season approaches, prompting the Philippine National Police (PNP) to warn the public, particularly the wealthy ones, to be extra vigilant and to protect themselves and their family members.
Unlike before in which wealthy Filipino-Chinese traders are favorite targets, PNP statistics revealed that most of the kidnapping victims for the past months are wealthy Filipinos and Indian businessmen, said Senior Supt. Isagani Nerez, commander of the Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response (PACER), which is the elite-anti-kidnapping unit of the PNP.
“In kidnapping, we noted the same trend from starting September up to December... we really record a rise in KFR incidents as we approach the Christmas season,” said Nerez. “We really have to be more vigilant, we need to be more proactive in our activities to deter the occurrence of kidnapping incidents.”
During the late 90s and early part of this decade, the government was prompted to create a top-level anti-kidnapping unit to run after organized KFR members due to the rise of kidnapping cases against wealthy Filipino-Chinese traders. The strategy became successful as it led to the busting of several KFR groups.
So far, Nerez revealed, there seems to be a shift as to the favorite targets of KFR groups as records revealed that most of the victims now are wealthy Filipino traders and Indian businessmen.
On the case of Indian businessmen as victims, Nerez said they seemed to become principal targets because of their refusal to pursue the case and file charges against the perpetrators.
The official, however, revealed that in most cases, KFR cases involving Indian traders are mainly triggered by intense business rivalry.
“Business rivalry is usually the motive. Almost always, the masterminds of kidnapping involving victims are also Indian nationals. In some cases the primary motive is robbery then converted to kidnapping,” said Nerez.
Noting the rise of KFR cases as the Christmas season nears, Nerez offered some tips in order for the prospective victims to protect themselves from being preyed upon by remaining KFR groups operating in the country.
First and foremost, Nerez said, wealthy traders should assign security officers for themselves in order for the KFR members to make it difficult and impossible to turn them as victims.
Doing away with the routine, such as the usual route that wealthy businessmen take on their way to work and back home, is also of big help.
“Make an evasive habit that will not be detected by kidnappers, securing your home is also important,” said Nerez.
Being simple, Nerez said, also usually pays off since the kidnappers usually start their intelligence-gathering on targets through the lifestyle of prospective victims. “Don’t show your affluence, you might become an instant target,” said Nerez.
“And never quarrel with your neighbors because in some cases, they act as tipsters to the kidnappers,” he added.
Nerez also clarified that there is a significant decrease of KFR cases in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon and the Visayas in the last few years, revealing that there only 18 cases occurred from January to first week of October this year, 15 of them were solved with the death of 19 of its members.
The latest PACER accomplishment is the killing of five KFR members in Cavite on Saturday who were tagged as responsible for the abduction of two Indian businessmen.
The figure, he said, is lower compared to 35 cases reported last year. He revealed that 83 percent of them were solved in a series of follow-up operations. “For last year, we record a total of 35 from January to December so if we are going to compare the number for this year, we are still little bit lower from that of last year,” said Nerez.
The figures for last year and this year, however, do not include cases of kidnapping in Mindanao, saying cases of kidnapping in the area are more likely political and act of terrorism in nature.
“I would like to make it clear that we are maintaining a separate list for Mindanao because we know for a fact that kidnapping cases in Mindanao are somehow political and acts of terrorism,” said Nerez.
Aaron Recuenco, Manila Bulletin