MANILA, Philippines?They Facebook-ed and Twitter-ed their way right into the hands of the authorities.
The popular social networking site Facebook provided vital clues to police investigators in their hunt for the members of the Ivan Padilla robbery and carjacking group, police said.
Superintendent Leo Francisco, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office Intelligence Unit, told reporters in Camp Crame Tuesday morning that the Facebook account of the first member they arrested, Ryan Francisco, led to the identification of other members, including leader Ivan Padilla.
Suspect Francisco's account eventually led to the accounts of the other members in other sites like Twitter, where the suspects even brazenly laid out their plans in plain view but couched in words they only understand.
"The Facebook and Twitter account gave important information. These told us how they exchanged information and their planned targets. We also saw that they use military terms," Francisco explained. "We used the Facebook account. That gave us the break."
The police official said that in April, a Korean reported the robbery of his unit in the Lafayette condominium building in Makati City last April. Police managed to track down the victim's laptop and arrested Francisco.
During police interrogation, suspect Francisco spilled the beans and identified the other members of the group, which Francisco said numbered around 12-15 mostly young persons. The suspect also allowed police investigators to use his accounts in social networking sites like Facebook to track down and monitor the other suspects.
Francisco also said it was only a matter of time before they would have all the members of the group. "We have accounted for six but we count 10 to 15 members. They are lying low but we have the address and profiles of these persons."
Padilla was killed in what has been reported as a shootout with police in Makati Monday morning. His group has been tagged in the theft of vehicles belonging to former Foreign Affairs Secretary Roberto Romulo and the father of actor Derek Ramsay.
Francisco said the Ivan Padilla Group was responsible for at least four robberies in swanky addresses, two in the Lafayette building, one in Dasmariñas Village and another in Forbes, both in Makati.
NCRPO spokesman Supt. Rommel Miranda also told the INQUIRER they are hunting down three pretty female members of the group.
Miranda said the females are key to the operation of the group. Prowling bars and upscale parties in the metropolis in sexy and alluring clothes, the females, all curvaceous mestizas, befriend their prospective victims, usually moneyed males. "They really dress up sexy and they look very sexy."
Once they befriend their victims, Miranda said the suspects use them to gain the trust of the victims and eventually, access to victim's residence, usually expensive condominium units in Makati. "They use girls to get acquainted with victims. Once they have access to the victim's residences and their vehicles, once the victims are vulnerable or when there's no one home, that's when the group strikes." The females also scout the vehicles of their victims, usually luxury cars and expensive SUVs, and inform the other group members of their potential targets.
Miranda also said that the Twitter account of one the girls even confirmed to police that they were involved in a heist of a house somewhere in McKinley Road in Makati recently.
Francisco also profiled Padilla as a product of a broken family with a mother detained in a correctional facility and with a father residing in the Bicol Region. Growing up with his grandmother, Padilla became a heavy user of drugs. The drug use was what brought his gang members together on their road to a life of crime, with Padilla starting off on his own road to perdition when he was only 17 years old.
"They started as a barkada (gang) and drugs was their common denominator. Because of their drug habit, they wanted the easy money. They had some businesses but these didn't click. That's when they thought of the easy money," Francisco said.
He also said Padilla partied with former members of the so-called "Alabang Boys," another notorious crime group involved in illegal drugs and composed of young men of affluent backgrounds.
Francisco also said they are checking if Padilla's group is the same as the so-called "Bundol Gang," whose modus operandi of the gang is to wait for arriving travelers at airports, tail them and eventually waylay the victim's vehicle in a secluded area and divest them of their valuables.