They are just around.
Discounting earlier documented reports that fugitive Palawan former governor Joel Reyes and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, had fled abroad using fake passports, police investigators claim that the two escaped suspects are still very much around in the country.
“We believe that the Reyes brothers are still here. We continue to exert efforts to locate them. Until we have convincing evidence to prove that they have left the country, we believe they’re still here,” said Chief Supt. Francisco Uyami Jr., the head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
Uyami said the Reyes brothers, who have standing arrest warrants for the murder of Palawan broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega, may have concocted the story that they had fled the country to avoid detection.
“It can be (misinformation). That is one technique so that the authorities would stop looking for them here,” he told a Camp Crame press briefing on Tuesday.
Asked what his basis was for saying that the fugitive brothers are not abroad, Uyami said: “We base it on probabilities and hunch.”
But he said he could not “immediately dispute” a witness’ testimony that the Reyes brothers had fled and a video that showed Joel passing through an immigration counter at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
“It appears that they had passports. But as far as we are concerned, we believe they’re still here,” Uyami insisted.
17 tracker teams
He said the Philippine National Police had intensified police operations against the Reyes brothers and the three others of the “Big 5,” or the country’s top five most wanted.
The others in the most-wanted list are retired Brig. Gen. Jovito Palparan, former Dinagat Island congressman Ruben Ecleo Jr. and Globe Asiatique owner Delfin Lee.
Palparan, called a berdugo (butcher) by political activists, is wanted in connection with the abduction of two University of the Philippines students who have been missing since 2006.
Ecleo went into hiding after he was ordered arrested for a graft case.
Lee has a standing arrest warrant issued by a Pampanga court for a multibillion-peso housing scam.
Uyami said the CIDG has created 17 “tracker teams” to conduct a nationwide hunt for the five and other high-profile fugitives.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has put up a P2-million reward for the capture of each of the Big 5.
Uyami said the tracker team members would undergo police training programs to improve their skills in case investigation and detective management.
On Tuesday, members of 10 tracker teams from CIDG units in the Luzon provinces attended a seminar on search, tracking and manhunt operations at the CIDG’s Camp Crame headquarters.
“Our purpose is to have a nationwide manhunt for the ‘Big 5’ and other most wanted criminals. This is in line with the PNP’s Oplan Pagtugis,” Uyami said.
“We believe that with better-trained tracker teams, we can arrest more wanted persons in the future,” he said.
Bigger than lotto
Uyami also sought the help of the public in arresting a total of 1,313 wanted criminals in the national and regional levels.
Instead of placing bets on lotto and other games of chance, he said people could become instant millionaires if they provide information on the whereabouts of these fugitives as the government has allocated a P223.7 million reward for their arrest.
“The reward money is huge. It’s even bigger than the lotto jackpot. And lotto is a game of chance. But if you help us, you can easily get the reward money,” he said.
Since January, the CIDG has arrested 569 wanted persons, 151 of whom are facing charges for heinous crimes like murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery.