4 business partners kidnapped in Maguindanao
COTABATO CITY – Unidentified gunmen, who were said to be based in Maguindanao, have been holding four persons from General Santos City in captivity since March 29 but authorities only confirmed it on Saturday.
Senior Supt. Rolen Balguin, the city police director here, identified the victims as Jason Cababayao, whose family owns J Trade Concrete Products and Construction Supply in General Santos City; architect Raulito Suyom, Jr., Francis Wong and Rho Steven.
Balquin said based on the initial details of the incident, the victims were heading for this city on a white Mitsubishi Strada pickup on March 29, when they were stopped by armed men along the national highway in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao.
He said the victims were to meet a client here.
Wong, on his Facebook page wrote (unedited) at 6:56 a.m. of March 29 that he was “Off to Cotabato City with my partners project meeting with Raulito Suy-Suy Suyom Jr. Jason Cababayao Rho Steven — feeling blessed.”
It has been the last post he made on social media.
Balquin said there had been reports the suspects had already contacted the victims’ families and demanded P10 million in ransom money but it was still being validated.
He said the police’s anti-kidnapping group had taken the lead in the investigation of the incident and was exerting efforts to determine the identities of the perpetrators.
In past kidnappings here, authorities had always identified the Pentagon gang as the responsible group.
The Pentagon gang, founded in the 1980s by former Moro National Liberation Front commander Faizal Marohombsar, who was later slain in a clash with government troops, is composed of cells operating in various Mindanao areas.
In Central Mindanao, the gang was being headed by Alonto Tahir, a diabetic former Moro rebel leader.
Among the gang’s previous victims included Italian priest Fr. Giuseppe Pierantoni, who was snatched on Oct. 17, 2001 while officiating a Mass in Dimataling, Zamboanga del Sur.
The group was also blamed for the 2001 kidnapping of five Chinese engineers working on a government irrigation project in North Cotabato.
Although the gang had been less active than what it used to be, it still pulls out kidnapping every now and then.
In 2007, gang members also snatched five engineers working for the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) in North Cotabato.
In October 2013, it stuck again in this city and seized an Indian national who operates a mall in various Central Mindanao areas.
Mike Khemani of the Sugni chain stores escaped from captivity about two months later.
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