MANILA, Philippines - Up to 20 police officers could be implicated in the disappearance of P12 million in ransom money during last week's arrest of 8 kidnap suspects.
Chief Inspector Marcelo Reyes, chief of the Manila Police District General Assignment Section, said the 20 policemen from MPD Station 5 Anti-Crime Unit have not reported for work since news of the missing ransom money came out. "Hindi na sila nagpapakita, bakit?" he asked.
He added that 3 more MPD officers could also be implicated in the missing ransom.
News of the missing ransom came out following last week's arrest of 8 suspects implicated in the kidnapping of Malaysian businessman Eric Sim Chin Tong.
Tong was kidnapped on March 7 but was released a day later after he gave P16 million in ransom.
The kidnappers, led by a certain Marlon Lopera, were arrested in a follow-up operation. The arresting team then turned over only P4.2 million of the recovered ransom despite Lopera's insistence that the full ransom was intact when police arrested him.
Five police officers -- Senior Inspector Peter Nerviza, chief of the MPD Station 5 Anti-Crime Unit, SPO3 Ernesto Peralta, PO3 Jefferson Britanico, PO3 Mike Ongpauco, and PO1 Rommel Ocampo -- went into hiding after they were accused of pocketing the missing millions.
They surrendered to Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim on Tuesday.
The Manila Police District-General Assignment Section said charges of qualified theft, estafa, and obstruction of justice were filed against the 5.
De Lima chides 'Dirty Harry'
In an interview, one of the accused officers denied stealing the missing ransom money.
"The mastermind wasn't even handcuffed. Sana naman maging parehas naman tayo. Kawawa po ang pamilya namin. Hinahapan po kami. Di ko alam kung anong hinahanap yung kulang daw na ransom money," Britanico said.
He added that the kidnappers could even get back at them now that they have been identified in public.
A special investigation task force, however, said there is evidence to show that the 5 police officers were actually involved in the crime.
"Lumalabas sa imbestigasyon namin magkakasabwat ang limang ito sa krimeng ginawa. Nasa pag-iingat ng 5 ang nawawalang ebidensya pero itinatanggi nila," Superintendent Fidel Posadas, MPD Deputy Director for Operations, said.
On Thursday, investigators forced open the lockers of the 5 policemen but found no further evidence linking them to the missing ransom.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, meanwhile, chided Mayor Lim for earlier issuing a shoot-to-kill order against the 5 police officers after they went into hiding.
"He is still living in a different world. The Wild, Wild West. It's against the law and the Constitution. Di pa ba tayo natuto? (Haven't we learned anything?)" she said.