On group swindling bizmen; Bohol PNP admits it has no leads yet
(The Freeman) - November 28, 2017 - 4:00pm

TAGBILARAN CITY, Philippines — Bohol police are still clueless over the whereabouts and the real identities of a woman and of her cohorts who swindled several business establishments in Tagbilaran City of at least P5 million worth of goods and vehicles.

Although police have filed estafa charges against a person, who identified herself as Feliza Domingo Torralba and six of her alleged collaborators, investigators are apparently in quandary how they could ferret out the truth behind a perfectly-executed scam.

About a month ago, the Tagalog-speaking suspects — who put up a seemingly legitimate general merchandise store in the city — fled Bohol province carting away with them the goods and vehicles they had purchased using checks, which later were found out to be unfunded, from at least 26 unsuspecting business outlets here.

Last week, Provincial Board Members Ricky Masamayor and Abeleon Damalerio initiated an investigation, in aid of legislation, into the scam that had made a sort of mockery of the province's recent accolade as the "most business-friendly province" in the country, an award given to Bohol for the first time by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

But the four-hour long probe turned out unfruitful after the summoned management of a city-based bank, where Torralba secured the checking account, was less cooperative in providing answers to the lawmakers' inquiries, according to Masamayor.

The two SP members had set another round of investigation within this week. However, observers said that without a court order, it is unlikely that those who will be invited for questioning would disclose substantial information.

In last week's investigation, Bureau of Internal Revenue-Bohol officer-in-charge Tohammie Yahya denied knowing a BIR staff who allegedly signed Torralba's business documents, which the suspect presented to the bank.

Samuel Belderol, head of the City Hall's business permit and licensing office, admitted during the PB hearing that the city did issue permits to Torralba without first inspecting the nature and location of the applicant's establishment, named F. Torralba General Merchandise.

Chief Inspector Jojit Mananquil, of the Bohol Police Provincial Office's intelligence branch, told The Freeman he suspected that Torralba and her cohorts were using fake names and had manufactured documents to obtain government permits and hurdle bank requirements.

The Department of Trade and Industry-Bohol, meanwhile, has not issued a statement to local media over questions on how Torralba had managed to register a business name.

"Maayo gyud pagka-plano sa maong pangilad (The scam was well-planned,)" Mananquil said. "Nasobrahan ra ang pagsalig nato sa mga tawo nga wala ta kaila (We were too trusting to people we are not familiar with)."

Manhunt

Senior Superintendent Felipe Rivera Natividad, Bohol Police provincial director, said police operatives in Agusan del Norte and nearby provinces have been requested for a Mindanao-wide manhunt operation on Torralba's group.

The group, who were renting a house in an upscale subdivision in Dauis town, fled Bohol via the Jagna-Nasipit port, a gateway to Mindanao, reportedly before the last All Saints' Day holiday, taking with them the goods and vehicles supplied by the victim establishments.

The scam was uncovered after some of the victims reported to media that a general merchandise store, put up just last October, had been issuing unfunded checks to them.

But the discovery was too late as Torralba and her cohorts had left the province, before banks could open after the long holidays in the first week of November. (FREEMAN)

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