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Nation

8 held for kidnapping foreigners

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Eight transgender women who are members of a kidnapping syndicate preying on foreigners in Metro Manila were arrested by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, the CIDG reported yesterday.

The suspects, belonging to the Warla group, targeted 14 foreigners since 2018, receiving an average of P200,000 to P500,000 from each of the victims, according to the CIDG.

While it is unusual that a kidnap group is composed of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, their motive is also strange, police said.

An investigation by the CIDG revealed that the suspects amassed P4.2 million from their activities, which they used to fund their sex reassignment surgery.

“In all my time with anti-kidnapping, this is the first time we encountered a group of transgenders,” CIDG director Brig. Gen. Ronald Lee said in a press conference.

Three of the suspects – Dewie Shaine Garcia, Charlemagne Vargas and Christian Paredes – surrendered to police after they were found to be connected to the kidnapping of 58-year-old Taiwanese businessman Michael Lee in Barangay BF Homes, Parañaque on Sept. 3. He was rescued last Sept. 7.

Police found out that Garcia, Vargas and Paredes were in possession of five GCash numbers where the victim’s friends deposited P308,000 in ransom.

Five other suspects – Jun Francis Villa, Lawrenz Lingo, Jhonas Belonio, Bernard Torres and Mark Joseph Pelonio – were arrested in entrapment operations for selling loose firearms on Sept. 17, 23 and 29.

Seized from them were two .22 caliber revolvers, .38 caliber handguns and a 5.56mm improvised rifle.

A manhunt is ongoing for the group’s alleged leader, Mikey Ebol, and other members Lexi Villanueva, Jaine Martinez, Hector Magallanes, Erwin Flores and Mathew San Diego.

Police filed charges of kidnapping and violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act against the suspects before the Department of Justice.

Lee said the group operates in southern Metro Manila, specifically in the cities of Parañaque, Pasay, Taguig and Makati.

Their modus operandi is to lure victims using dating apps and sites while posing as women.

Once their victims are in their custody, the suspects would bring them to a safe house and demand ransom.

Col. Hansel Marantan, CIDG National Capital Region field unit chief, said the suspects are quick with their negotiations, which only last three to four days.

He said all of the victims paid ransom. Except for Lee, the rest did not pursue charges against the suspects.

KIDNAPPING

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