7 guilty in Tsinoy kidnapping case
Six men and a woman were found guilty on Wednesday of kidnapping a shoe factory owner, his wife and their house help in Quezon City 18 years ago for a P400,000 ransom.
Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 98 sentenced the convicts to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years imprisonment without eligibility for parole.
Convicted were Roger Ete, Crisanto Dollete, Agustin Quinale, Mario Esiderio, Cipriano Cornista, and Diosdado Tandagan, who are all in police custody. Another accused, Teofilo Arlanzon, died in the course of the trial. The police have described them as members of the Waray-Waray criminal group.
The court also found another accused, Esperanza Falcon, guilty of being an accomplice to the crime and sentenced her to up to 12 years and 10 months in prison. Falcon, who has been detained since 1997, was considered to have served her jail term.
The court ordered them to pay P700,000 in damages to victims Virgilio Chua, his wife Christina Chua and their house help Annalyn Simbajon.
P50-million initial ransom demand Christina, who was the only victim present during the promulgation, took off her dark glasses and wiped her eyes after the verdict was read. She declined to be interviewed by the media.
Around 6:30 a.m. on April 8, 1997, the Chuas, together with their maid, were abducted by a group of men on their way to the factory in Barangay Sauyo. The group was in a taxi that blocked the Chuas’ Honda Civic and threatened to shoot them if they didn’t open the door. The victims were blindfolded and brought to a safe house in Antipolo City.
Nelson Ong, Christina’s brother, testified in court that someone called him at 10 a.m. that day to ask for P50 million in exchange for the victims’ release. Before midnight, the caller agreed to a much lower ransom of P400,000. Ong was later instructed to hand over the money to three men at a mall in Sta. Mesa, Manila.
By 5:30 a.m. the next day, the victims had returned home. The Chua couple told the court that they were blindfolded and released by their captors on Sumulong Highway in Marikina City.
The now defunct Task Force Dragon of the Philippine National Police, a group formed in response to the upsurge of kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) cases targeting affluent members of the Chinese-Filipino community in the 1990s, traced the call to a cell phone owned by Edgar Samson.
When questioned, Edgar Samson told the police that his phone was borrowed by his cousin Claro Samson upon the order of their friend Conrado Camiller, who turned out to be the mastermind.
Claro Samson turned state witness and revealed how Camiller planned the kidnapping at the house of Falcon, his aunt, in Quezon City.
Ete, Cornista, Arlanzon and Alton Camiller were identified as the abductors, while Dollete, Esiderio and Tandagan where tagged as the men who guarded the safe house. Adong Camiller and Michael Camiller took the ransom money while Quinale served as their driver.
Conrado Camiller made the calls asking for the ransom while other suspects who remained at large were also identified as negotiators.
There is a standing arrest warrant against the other accused: Conrado Camiller, Michael Camiller, Alton Camiller, Adong Camiller, Olab Inales, Elvira Diola, a certain Pablo, Val, Junjun, King and Mozo or Monsour.
The arrested suspects, who mostly lived in the same slum area in Mandaluyong City, denied knowing each other and claimed they were only forced to sign extrajudicial confessions.
The court, however, said the “categorical, consistent and positive identification (of the suspects), without any ill motive on the part of the eyewitness, prevails over unconvincing alibi and unsubstantiated denials.”
The Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO), which has been assisting KFR victims, welcomed the conviction but noted the long time it took for the case to be decided.
“Although we welcome the conviction meted out against these unscrupulous individuals, justice delayed is still justice denied,” MRPO chair Ka Kuen Chua said. “A case that took 18 long years to reach its conclusion should not be the general rule.”
MRPO also noted that Tamang was already the third judge to handle the case, after Justo Sultan and Evelyn Corpus-Cabochan. Erika Sauler/Philippine Daily Inquirer
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.