New antikidnap chief vows to disprove critics
MANILA, Philippines—The new head of the Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) vowed to prove doubters wrong despite the lack of manpower and the growing perception that it would just end up chasing fellow policemen who had gone rogue.
In a press conference Thursday at Camp Crame, AKG chief Senior Supt. Roberto Fajardo, who took over the post two weeks ago from Senior Supt. Renato Gumban, said among his first targets was the reorientation of the group’s focus.
“We will now monitor not just kidnapping groups but all organized crime groups. Why? Because they ‘mutate.’ If [a criminal gets] targeted (by the police) as a kidnapper, he will engage in other crimes like robbery-holdup or carnapping,” he said.
Fajardo took over following an apparent surge in kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) cases, mostly victimizing affluent members of the Filipino-Chinese community, as pointed out in a recent Senate hearing by the watchdog group Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO).
Fajardo said he “immediately informed [MRPO founding chair] Teresita Ang-See that I am the new AKG director. We will be meeting once their president is available.”
The MRPO expressed apprehensions particularly over the involvement of policemen in KFR syndicates—a lingering smear on the PNP’s image. Told of this, Fajardo said he would take it as a “challenge. We will root them out. Even if the PNP continues to draw criticism, we will not be deterred. It has only strengthened our resolve to continue working.”
Fajardo presented an accomplishment report covering his first two weeks as AKG chief, starting with the arrest of Julie Ann Tongga on Sept. 23 in Bulacan province as a KFR suspect and partner in crime of her husband Alexander Buenaobra, who was captured in August.
He also cited the Sept. 28 arrest of Zaldy Saranggani in Cagayan de Oro City, the alleged ransom “negotiator” who helped the kidnappers of Korean national Jung Tae-young and Victor Macasera in 2008.
Like most government teams and agencies, Fajardo said, the AKG is struggling to cope with budget and personnel constraints. “We are supposed to be 480 but we currently have only 217 (members),” he said. “But as I keep saying to my men, the show must go on despite these shortages.”
Prior to his new appointment, Fajardo headed the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region.
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