One of the kidnap victims identify her captors at Camp Crame yesterday.
Boy Santos
Fact check: Makati abduction an 'isolated incident'?
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - December 15, 2019 - 1:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — In addressing the case of a woman who was kidnapped along the streets of Makati earlier this week, Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo downplayed the occurrence by calling it an isolated incident. 

"I think that particular incident is isolated. I have not heard of any kidnapping cases reported whether by the media or by word of mouth, except for that video that went viral,” the Malacañang mouthpiece said in a press briefing.

Makati police have confirmed that one Zhou Mei, whom they said worked at a Chinese POGO, was indeed kidnapped by three Chinese men along Paseo de Roxas.

The video of the incident that went viral on social media showed a woman getting dragged into a gray van outside an office building. The woman in the video can clearly be heard shrieking for help as the van drives off. 

In the same briefing, Panelo also said that the country's streets "definitely" remain safe for the public. 

Other officials downplayed the incident as well, including Makati Mayor Abby Binay who echoed Panelo's "isolated incident" remark and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a former national police chief, who said it was a "petty crime" that only affected the Chinese.

Foreigners in the Philippines are subject to the same laws and entitled to the same protections as Filipinos. 

Rising cases

But on Friday, six Chinese men implicated in the kidnap and rape of six female foreigners were arrested in Bacoor, Cavite. The victims were reportedly abused by their captors as the suspects demanded P700,000 for the release of one of them.

In the same week, Rep. Eric Go Yap (ACT-CIS party-list), chairman of the committee on games and amusements, said they would look into rising cases of kidnapping involving Chinese nationals working in Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).

This, after the PNP-Anti Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) documented 36 casino-related kidnappings from January to November 2019.

As early as February of this year, the PNP-AKG reported that 69 Filipinos and foreigners were kidnapped in 2018. 

They also found that Filipinos kidnapped increased by 16.66% to 42 kidnappings in 2018, from just 36 in 2017. Thirty-three of these, the PNP-AKG said, were in Mindanao, while eight occured in Luzon and one in Visayas.

Not isolated

Similar reports of youths being snatched by unknown men in a white van have been sweeping the metro on social media. 

These accounts rose to prominence first in Pasay City, whose police department said that only one of the nine reported cases were confirmed. 

READ: PNP looking into alleged kidnappings in Pasay 

Since then, users of social media have also reported similar cases in Taft and Makati.

A report by the Lead Inspector General to the United States Congress conducted from to April to June 2019 said, "The AFP struggled this quarter to combat Abu Sayyaf Group kidnap-for-ransom activity" which the report said served as a means of financing terrorist activity. 

The same is echoed by the Philippine 2019 Crime & Safety Report produced with the Regional Security Office at the US Embassy which notes that, "in 2017 and 2018, kidnapping victims were predominantly Philippine citizens."

On Friday, the PNP-AKG requested additional manpower to assist in their operations against what they said was the rising number of kidnappings on Chinese POGO workers. 

READ: PNP needs more agents vs POGO-related kidnappings

“We need it and we can request for it,” Lt. Col Villaflor Banawagan, head of the AKG’s Luzon field unit said at a press briefing at Camp Crame on December 12.

Broken promises 

Sen. Joel Villanueva said the links between the kidnappings and Chinese POGO firms were caused by the government’s generous policy on the entry of foreign workers in the country

Col. Elmer Cereno said that these kidnappings were typically the result of loan shark and gambling deals gone wrong. 

“If you lose in gambling and you cannot pay, they would simply snatch you and force you to call your relatives in China to pay ransom,” he said.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, while running for vice president in the 2016 polls,  was quoted as saying he and his running-mate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would resign "by January 1, 2017" if the duo fails to make streets in the Philippines safe.

This came amid promises from Duterte, since elected president, that he would resign "in six months" if he was not able to deal with the illegal drug problem. 

He later asked for two extensions for his anti-drug campaign, saying he did not realize how bad the problem actually was. 

FACT CHECK KIDNAPPING PNP-AKG POGOS PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON SALVADOR PANELO
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