MANILA—A man was rescued from his kidnappers in Pasay City on Wednesday, a day after fellow Chinese nationals abducted him.
Police Col. Jonnel Estomo, director of Philippine National Police-Anti Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG), identified the victim as Li Hitao, 38, from Hubei province, China while the suspects were identified as Zhangpeng Xiong and Tian Fu Zhao.
Estomo said the kidnappers, purported members of a casino loan-shark group, abducted Li after he was allegedly unable to pay his gambling debts to the suspects.
Li was reportedly held at a condominium in Pasay. The security of the establishment immediately reported the incident to authorities, which led to the arrest of the two suspects, police said.
Authorities discovered a cellphone video allegedly showing the victim being tortured. The suspects were shown demanding ransom money from the victim’s family in China.
“Through the cellphone of the victim, tatawagan nila ang family sa China. Ang transfer ng ransom money hindi rito sa Pilipinas nangyayari, may ginagamit silang Wechat at bitcoin sa China, kaya hindi na natin nati-trace,” PNP-AKG spokesman Police Lt. Col. Elmer Cereno said.
Cereno revealed that from January to May this year, there have been 12 reported casino-related kidnappings. However, most cases were dismissed because the victims flew back to China and were unable to testify.
“We have already filed all cases and we have arrested some of the suspects pero kung minsan nadi-dismiss ang cases natin dahil kapag ang victim umuwi na ng China hindi na siya bumabalik para mag-testify,” Cereno said.
He said there are casino operators who target rich Chinese citizens and offer them money as capital for gambling.
“May promissory note silang pipirmahan, kung mananalo, magkakaroon sila ng percentage sa hiniram. Pero dahil gambling nga, kapag natalo, pipilitin nilang maglabas ng pera saka nila ia-abduct nila ang tao,” Cereno said, adding that locals are allegedly being paid to help the group kidnap victims.
“Naaalarma tayo dahil napasukan na rin ng mga Pilipino na dating ginagawa na ng foreign nationals. Minsan nagpapanggap silang pulis o NBI at kunwari ay inaaresto nila ang biktima. Nakilala na natin ang iba sa kanila at nakapag-serve tayo ng search warrant. May nakuha tayong baril at bala sa suspek na involved dito.”
Forty-nine casino-related kidnapping cases have been reported to the PNP-AKG since 2017.
In 2017, 15 cases were reported. In 2018, there were 13 cases while 21 cases have been reported so far in 2019.
Fifty-seven of the victims were Chinese. A total of 115 suspects have been arrested. — Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News