Rolito Go missing again; kin cry kidnap
NBP execs say kidnap group thrives in prisonBy Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Another high-profile prisoner at the state penitentiary has given prison officials the slip.
Rolito Go, a convicted road rage killer, was reported missing from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City on Tuesday night. But his relatives claimed Wednesday that he was kidnapped along with his nephew.
Three Philippine Daily Inquirer sources supported the claim of Go’s family, saying this was not the first time that a rich prisoner at the NBP or their relatives had fallen prey to a kidnap-for-ransom syndicate.
In a briefing for reporters, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima sounded unconvinced it was kidnapping.
“Imagine, kidnapped right in the NBP. Only in the Philippines,” De Lima said.
De Lima said Go was reported to have been last seen at the Ina ng Awa church at the prison compound where he was assigned as a church worker with his nephew, Clemence Yu, a registered nurse.
Go is suffering from colon cancer, and has had surgery.
De Lima said Yu came every day to dress Go’s surgical wounds and give him medicine.
A senior prison official, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said a high-ranking official of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) could be behind the kidnapping of Go.
In fact, the official said the wives of three wealthy prisoners, among them a convicted drug dealer, were recently taken by unidentified men in separate kidnappings.
The three women were reportedly released after their families paid ransom money and vehicles.
“Inmates of the NBP know that the kidnapping syndicate is headed by a senior BuCor official that’s why they’re afraid to talk about their operations,” the official said.
“I will not be surprised if they kill Rolito Go because he probably knows his abductors,” the official said.
Malacañang ordered the Department of Justice to investigate Go’s disappearance.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters that the President had been informed that Go was missing from the national penitentiary at noon.
In a television interview later, Lacierda said the Palace would wait for the results of the investigation before reviewing the performance of NBP Director Gaudencio Pangilinan.
De Lima asked the National Bureau of Investigation to look into Go’s disappearance and verify whether it was really a kidnapping.
“This incident is being [portrayed] as an abduction, that’s why the NBI is investigating this,” Lacierda said.
De Lima said Go’s sister went to the NBP early yesterday to report that she was able to contact him and her son and both of them told her that they had been kidnapped.
“Rolito Go was contacted by mobile phone, [and he] claimed he was abducted and that the abductors were [asking for] a P1-million ransom,” De Lima said.
But she refused to confirm the kidnapping, saying the report was surprising.
“Is this really true or not? Or is this something instigated by Rolito Go or something instigated by other people for whatever agenda?” De Lima asked.
Another Inquirer source said Go, a living-out prisoner, had been going in and out of the NBP compound even without authorization from the justice secretary.
“Some BuCor officials had been allowing Go to leave the [NBP] to go to his lending business in Soldiers’ Hills (in Muntinlupa) in exchange for regular payola,” the second source said.
Go disappeared more than a year after the discovery of former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste’s infamous trip out of the heavily guarded prison.
Leviste, who is serving a sentence of 12 years in prison for killing his longtime friend and aide Rafael de las Alas in 2009, was arrested outside a building he owns in Makati City.
Leviste’s caper prompted De Lima and the BuCor to implement reforms in the NBP, including the dismantling of rich prisoners’ private quarters and the suspension of “living out” privileges for some inmates.
Richard Schwarzkopf, NBP superintendent, said an inmate reported that Go was missing during the regular head count of prisoners in the prison’s minimum security compound at
10 p.m. Tuesday.
Schwarzkopf said Go was last seen at around 8 p.m. outside his private quarters, a nipa hut, at the back of the Ina ng Awa church just a few meters outside the prison’s main gate.
As a living-out prisoner, Go was allowed to stay in a 20-square-meter nipa hut, which he had built two years ago, during the day. But he and other living-out prisoners should return to the minimum prison compound before 6 p.m.
“We now consider him an escapee,” Schwarzkopf said in a briefing for reporters.
“We immediately searched for him with the help of other law enforcement agencies, but we could not find him,” he said.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome on Wednesday ordered a manhunt for Go in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon.
“[The manhunt] will be done initially in [Metro Manila],” Bartolome told reporters. “But if we’re going to follow that other angle (of kidnapping), it will not just be Metro Manila because our coverage is the whole country,” he said.
“I coordinated already with the Anti-Kidnapping Group to assess if such an incident did occur,” Bartolome said. “Did [Go] leave on his own or did someone take him?”
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group will also investigate Go’s disappearance.
The Bureau of Immigration on Wednesday alerted all international airports and seaports to be on the lookout for Go, who is also known as Go Giap Cheung.
Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. told immigration officers to watch out for Go, who might try to sneak out of the country on a fake passport.
Immigration spokesperson Maria Antonette Mangrobang said there were still active hold-departure orders issued against Go.
“We are alerting all international airports and seaports. We are also currently verifying if he has departed,” Mangrobang told reporters in a text message.
Schwarzkopf said BuCor Director Pangilinan had ordered the relief of PG1 Serafin Geronimo, Go’s custodial officer, and Gabriel Magat, warden of the minimum security complex.
“They are now under investigation. Other correctional officials who are responsible for Go’s escape will also be investigated and charged,” Schwarzkopf said.
To be released next July
The investigation included a careful look at the kidnapping angle.
“We are being careful in checking all the reports about his disappearance because we want to determine the truth if he was really abducted or he just escaped,” Schwarzkopf said.
He said he was “puzzled” as to why Go would want to escape, noting that Go was due to be released in July next year.
Go, who is serving a life sentence for the killing of college student Eldon Maguan in a fit of road rage in 1991, has been serving time at the NBP for 18 years.
Schwarzkopf also disclosed that Go had been allowed to regularly leave for his medical checkups after he underwent an operation for colon cancer.
“But he cannot leave without permission. There must be a clearance (from De Lima),” he said.
Another source said Go’s abduction could be related to his lending business inside the state penitentiary.
“Among those who owe Go are prison officials themselves. Some of them were complaining about the high interest that Go collects from borrowers,” the source said.
He said the vehicles parked outside Go’s hut, including three sports utility vehicles, were actually “repossessed by Go” after the borrowers failed to repay their loans.
Get him back
The family of Maguan could not believe Go had escaped from the national penitentiary.
“The government should immediately find him and return him to the New Bilibid Prison,” Ellis Maguan, older brother of Eldon, said.
He described the claim that Go had been kidnapped as “too good to be true.”
Later, the Maguan family issued a statement lamenting the second escape of Go from prison.
Go escaped from the Rizal provincial jail on Nov. 1, 1993, days before his sentencing. He was recaptured, however, and sentenced to life in prison.
The Maguans said that sources had told them that Go was staying with his daughter, who is an intern at Chinese General Hospital.
The family urged the government to “exert all efforts” and put Go back in prison. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac, Christine O. Avendaño, Jocelyn R. Uy, Philip C. Tubeza and Nathaniel R. Melican