Magtanggol Gatdula, then National Bureau of Investigation director, checked on undocumented alien Noriyo Ohara a few hours after she was abducted in Pangasinan by unauthorized NBI agents on Oct. 29, 2010, according to a report of a Department of Justice fact-finding panel headed by Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III.
The report said the kidnapping was hatched right inside the NBI main office in Manila and that Gatdula had participated in the planning and cover-up.
President Benigno Aquino III recently dismissed Gatdula for failing to turn over Ohara, a Japanese, to the Bureau of Immigration (BI). He said he had lost trust in Gatdula.
The Baraan panel said NBI officials and agents held Ohara without charge and collected P6 million out of the P15 million they had demanded from the Marzan family, who were threatened with criminal charges for harboring an illegal alien. The haggling for the ransom took place in the NBI office.
Before Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo’s exposé on December 3 last year, Ohara was kept in various NBI offices and safe houses, and accompanied by Chona Esplana. In one of her appearances before the panel, Esplana claimed to be a confidential agent of the NBI but was later found to be lying.
Gatdula said he heard about the Ohara case on November 15 from NBI Deputy Director Reynaldo Esmeralda, who was asked by Tulfo about Ohara’s plight.
However, Ohara testified before the panel that Gatdula had gone to the office of special investigator Mario Garcia, chief of the NBI-Security Management Division (SMD), where she was brought by NBI agents who forcibly took her from the house of the Marzan family at around 8 a.m. on October 29.
A picture of Gatdula hanging on the wall of Garcia’s office helped Ohara identify the NBI chief. “Director Gatdula came in the room and looked at me. He talked to Garcia for a short time then he left. I recognized him because he has a picture in Garcia’s office,” Ohara was quoted as saying in the report.
The Marzan patriarch, Romulo, who was also brought to the SMD by the NBI agents, said Gatdula dropped by on the afternoon of October 29. He said Esplana, who was with the team that participated in the Bugallon operation, had identified Gatdula for him.
“When the man left, Chona told him (Romulo) that the man was no less than the NBI director himself, who had to go down from his office as Ohara’s case was a very important one,” the report said.
Romulo’s daughters—Jacqueline and Glenda—also identified Gatdula through the office picture.
Garcia, who led the operation to “rescue” Ohara, confirmed that Gatdula had gone to the SMD between 5 and 6 p.m. to look at Ohara. “OK, help her with what she needs,” Garcia quoted Gatdula as saying.
Gatdula admitted to the panel that he went to the SMD office as part of his “routine inspection” but he said he did not remember meeting or even noticing Ohara.
The panel noted that Garcia did not have any authority to order an operation. He said he formed the NBI team to “rescue” Ohara after someone brought him a letter from her, written in Nihongo, asking for help because she was allegedly being abused by the Marzans.
The letter turned out to be Ohara’s request for help about her properties. Moreover, Ohara and the panel’s star witness, Garcia’s executive officer Jose Odelon Cabillan, claimed that she was made to write it much later as part of the cover-up.
Through Cabillan, who led the operation in Bugallon, the panel was able to learn about Virgelito Gutierrez, alias Labsky, a lackey of Gatdula back in the director’s days as a Quezon City policeman.
Cabillan said that in the first week of October, Gutierrez relayed to him that an informant, Jun Perez, also known as Rolando, had told him that a rich Japanese woman—Ohara—was living with the Marzans in Pangasinan and might be a target of kidnappers.
“The informant allegedly revealed that if the NBI would be able to get the Japanese woman, the Marzans would cough up money to settle with them. Labsky told him that the information was also relayed to Garcia and Gatdula,” the report said.
On their way back to Manila, Cabillan said that he overheard Gutierrez speaking to Gatdula and that the NBI director “appeared to be monitoring [our] return.”
Cabillan also confirmed that Gatdula had gone to the SMD office on the same day to check on Ohara and that the director even said, “Document her.”
The Baraan panel was able to establish a motive behind the abduction. Its report quoted Chief Consul Keiki Endo of the Japanese Embassy as saying that Ohara’s father had left her a huge inheritance and that the creditors of her father and the Japanese government, wanting to collect inheritance tax, were after her, thus explaining her flight to the Philippines.
Reports that Ohara’s father was killed by the criminal syndicate Yakuza appears to be not true, according to the report.
Ohara arrived in Manila in June 2009 and did not pass through immigration authorities. She bought a house in Las Piñas City which was registered in the name of her friend, Romulo’s sister Rosemarie. Ohara, who had assumed the identity of Marefe Laganas, went to live with the Marzans in Bugallon early last year.
Portions of the agreed ransom money were brought by the Marzans to the NBI in three batches—P1 million, P4 million and another P1 million—which were received by Cabillan and Esplana.
The Marzans claimed the money came from their own pockets. Although Ohara denied that the ransom money came from her, the panel noted that Jacqueline first knew about the abduction from Rosemarie, who is working in Japan. Rosemarie relayed the information about the abduction just an hour after it took place.
The panel also found that Garcia had given his personal bank account number to Ohara to be sent to her contact, probably Rosemarie.
Cabillan said that after the second installment (P4 million) of the ransom was delivered, he heard Garcia saying that he would take care of his “boss”—referring to assistant director Medardo de Lemos.
Cabillan also recounted how on December 8, Gatdula called him to the NBI library where he was meeting several people—Gatdula’s chief of staff Anthony Endrendal, spokesperson Boy Zamora, public information chief Alex Carbonel, Elizaldo Beltran of internal affairs, Garcia and Gutierrez.
During the meeting, Cabillan said Gatdula told him: “Someone has to sacrifice. Someone has to admit guilt. We must do damage control so that this will stop,” Gatdula said, to which Garcia replied, “OK Sir, I will take full responsibility.”