MANILA - A landmark victory for all kidnap-for-ransom cases. This is how anti-kidnapping advocates described the conviction of former Quezon City Representative and actor Dennis Roldan.
"Benchmark namin ito. Dennis Roldan is a powerful figure with connections," said Teresita Ang-See of the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO).
"The significance of this case show our victims that it pays to fight back, it doesn't pay if you keep quiet. Kidnapping will continue to be a perfect crime if you don't fight, if you continue to just pay ransom, and you do not file cases," See said.
Roldan was sentenced to life in prison by the Pasig Regional Trial Court after being found guilty of kidnapping a three-year-old Chinese-Filipino boy in February 2005.
Roldan -- Mitchell Gumabao in real life -- and his supposed girlfriend Suzette Wang were pointed by the other suspects as the alleged masterminds of the kidnapping.
The kidnap victim himself also positively identified Roldan as the "big boss" of his abductors.
According to See, she is happy that the victim's family chose to pursue the case despite alleged attempts to influence the judges and fears of retaliation.
"The family spent much more than what they would have paid as a ransom to continue and pursue this case. Kaya takot ang mga victims kasi after ng paggastos nila, papaano daw kung maimpluwensyahan? Sinasabi naman namin, the criminal justice system has its flaws but it is the only one that helps. Magtulungan tayo para mapahusay at mapaayos," she said.
She said the prosecution has done its job to "prove beyond any doubt" the guilt of Roldan despite being granted bail in July 2006 by Judge Agnes Reyes-Carpio who had said that there was no clear proof that the evidence of Roldan's guilt was strong.
"Talagang pinaghirapan...ang pagpi-present namin ng mga ebidensya, and we have proven the case beyond any doubt. Kaya nagpapasalamat kami sa mga prosecutors, sa mga non-kidnapping group, sa mga members ng MRPO na umulan o umaraw, bahang-baha sa Pasig, dumarating kami sa lahat ng court hearing to give support to the kidnap-for-ransom victims para palakasin ang loob nila na ituloy ang ganitong pakikipaglaban so we can permanently restore peace and order and restore sanity in our lives," she said.
VICTIM NEVER HAD A NORMAL LIFE
Kuen Chua of the MRPO added that Roldan's conviction sends a signal to all kidnappers that they should already stop what they are doing.
"MRPO is very happy today for the success and victory of the case. [It] is the victory of all kidnap-for-ransom cases. We want to support all the victims to come out in fighting this crime to restore the peace and order," Chua said.
See, however, said they are sad that the victim's father no longer had the chance to witness Roldan's conviction after dying in a "mysterious accident" in October 2008.
The father's car fell into a 250-meter deep ravine and caught fire.
"Hindi kumpleto yung happiness namin sa conviction because the father did not see the fruits of his labor. He died mysteriously, he was in a mysterious accident in Cordillera. Nalungkot kami kasi siya talaga ang nagpursige ng kaso."
She also lamented that after the kidnapping incident, the victim never had a "normal life."
"From the beginning, kahit ongoing yung cases, maraming threat sa kanila na i-atras yung kaso... The mother is protecting him. That is very understandable. He never went through any childhood at all since his kidnapping," she said.
"Especially when he saw Dennis Roldan out of his jail. Sinabi niya, why is that bad guy out of his cage?" she added.
Meanwhile, See said at least 16 kidnapping cases so far have been reported in Metro Manila this year.
Many others, however, remain unreported. Many also refuse to file cases due to fear, she said.