GENERAL SANTOS CITY — After more than two months of silence, the family of a kidnapped six-year-old boy has given authorities the go-signal to rescue him at all costs. This includes the reported plan to launch air strikes on the kidnappers’ lair in Polomolok, South Cotabato.
Last Saturday, negotiations for the release of Stewart "Taichi" Aparejo bogged down when the kidnappers rejected the P50,000 the boy’s family had offered as payment for "board and lodging." The abductors were demanding a P5-million ransom.
Pastor Bebs Signar, of the local Pentecostal Church, told The STAR that the Aparejo family has given up going it alone after a series of failed negotiations and has allowed the police and the military to act accordingly.
Signar admitted that they earlier had asked the authorities to keep the media in the dark on the abduction of the boy, who was mistaken for a son of Japanese engineer Yoshihiro Sumi, 62, the live-in partner of the boy’s mother, Helen Aparejo, 33.
Last Aug. 8, Stewart was playing in their frontyard in Barangay Apopong when he was snatched.
At first, his family kept the incident to themselves, hoping to secure the boy’s release without the help of local authorities.
"But our efforts have all been in vain," Signar said.
Sumi and Helen met eight years ago at a karaoke bar in Cebu City where she was working as a guest relations officer (GRO).
Stewart is Helen’s son by her former boyfriend, said to be an auto mechanic.
In an interview, Helen said Sumi helped her raise Stewart through a P10,000 monthly allowance he regularly sent her from Japan.
The Japanese engineer also helped her put up a sari-sari store and a billiard hall, and bought her a tricycle and passenger jeepney and a house and lot.
"But because of the kidnapping, which some mischievous law enforcers had tried to (blame) on me, Sumi had cut off all financial support," Helen said in between sobs.
Sumi arrived from Japan a week after the abduction, accompanied by a compatriot, a certain Taichi, said to be the boyfriend of Charito, Helen’s second cousin.
|Case of ‘kidnap me’?|
Earlier, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) theorized that the incident was a case of "kidnap me" — meaning that someone in the family had thought of the abduction to get a huge amount of money from the Japanese.
"He’s my son. I cannot do that just because of money. And besides, my boyfriend has his own family in Japan, he cannot afford to raise the money for the ransom even though how much he loves Stewart," Helen said.
If, indeed, she had staged her son’s kidnapping, she asked, "Why should I sell all my property to raise part of the money being demanded by the kidnappers?"
She said that a day after Stewart disappeared, his abductors called her and demanded P20,000 in exchange for her son’s release.
She said she sold her tricycle and a billiard table and gave the P20,000 to a certain Manny Gallana who allegedly talked to the kidnappers through a cellular phone.
Gallana, a gym instructor, reportedly volunteered to deliver the money himself. But to Signar’s chagrin, Gallana allegedly pocketed the money.
Last Aug. 14, Helen received a ransom demand of P1.5 million and prints and negatives of photos showing Stewart in the company of his abductors.
"Included in the letter, which was sent via LBC pouch, was the request of the child to raise the ransom so he could be released from the hands of the kidnappers," Signar said.
Using the proceeds from the sale of her passenger jeepney, Helen said she followed up the case with the CIDG.
Superintendent Jose Pante, CIDG-Region 12 chief, identified two of the suspects as Ariel Paraiso and a certain Omar, reportedly a neighborhood toughie.
The two men turned out to be drinking buddies of Helen’s stepmother, Nelly Decatoria.
After the negotiations failed, Helen said she was living it all up to God: "Bahala na ang Diyos, wala talaga akong pera pangtubos kay Stewart (It’s all up to God. I no longer have money to secure Stewart’s freedom)," she said.