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Cop says with no proof of death, 34 sabungeros still deemed ‘missing’

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With no proof of death, police continue to consider the 34 lost sabungeros as missing.

“They are still considered missing unless we see evidence like bodies. So far, we have yet to find any proof of life. I don’t want to give false hopes. We will still pray for a miracle,” said Brig. Gen. Ronald Lee, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

In a press briefing at Camp Crame in Quezon City, Lee said kidnappers for ransom usually do not keep their victims alive for a long time. He cited his own experience in anti-kidnapping operations as basis for his theory.

“Common criminals engaged in kidnapping especially here in Luzon, they don’t hold on to their victims for a long time because they just want money or they have other intentions. In Mindanao or in kidnapping cases perpetrated by the NPA (New People’s Army), they can keep them even for years. Kidnappers have different styles,” he explained.

Lee disclosed that more complaints will be filed soon against suspects Julie Patidongan or “Dondon” and seven security guards in connection with the so-called Manila Arena case.

He added that the investigators are looking at the involvement of certain policemen in some of the cases.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. earlier signed the summary dismissal order for five police officers who were implicated in the alleged abduction of online cockfighting agent Ricardo Lasco last year in San Pedro City, Laguna.

“There are also feelers that we are not disclosing. That’s why we are working on it and hopefully we will have more solid evidence,” Lee said.

“We are still looking for other personalities there and hopefully we can still find relevant evidence so that we can also file additional cases…There are some in the service, most of them are in the service and there are also civilians who are with us, that’s all, based on because the DOJ in the statement of a witness that they could not be included,” he added.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has said the chances that the missing “sabungeros” would turn up alive are growing slimmer.

He said the presumption of death will contribute to how the prosecutors will go after the suspects and how the courts will appreciate the cases.

In a Nov. 25 resolution made public on Monday, the DOJ found probable cause to indict SSgt. Daryl Panghangaan, Patrolmen Roy Navarete, and Regil Brosas on charges of robbery and kidnapping. The DOJ however, cleared Lt. Henry Sasaluya and MSgt. Michael Claveria.

State prosecutors considered the testimonies of the witnesses, as well as the closed circuit television footage of the kidnapping of Lasco, sufficient to establish the case.

They were identified as the group that entered the house of Lasco, introduced themselves as National Bureau of Investigation agents, and arrested the victim using a dubious arrest warrant for large-scale estafa on Aug. 30, 2021 in Barangay San Lucas 1, San Pedro City.

The suspects allegedly seized some personal items and cash money amounting to over P10.4 million belonging to Lasco and his relatives.

Lasco’s case was one of the eight cases handled by the CIDG Special Investigation Task Group “Sabungero” which took cognizance of the case following a complaint for kidnapping filed by the victim’s family but was unfortunately dismissed by the San Pablo prosecutor’s office.


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