'Warla' gang members arrested after rescue of kidnapped Taiwanese businessman

Jorge Carino, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2022 03:44 PM

MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday said they have arrested five suspected members of a kidnapping group following the kidnapping and rescue of a 58-year-old Taiwanese businessman earlier this month. 

“Sa tagal-tagal ko sa anti-kidnapping, first time na mayroong naka-encounter kami ng ganito, na grupo ng transgender. And doon sa naging biktima nila na 14, backtracking pa kami, kung sino-sino mga yun,” said Brig. Gen. Ronald Lee, chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

(I've been with anti-kidnapping for a long time now, and this is the first time I've encountered a group of transgenders. And they said they've had 14 of victims, most of whom we're still backtracking.) 

Police identified the suspects as Jun Pavilla Villa, Lawrenz Descartin Lingo, Jhonas Grimpula Belonio, Bernard Ty Torres, and Mark Joseph Dagame Pelonio, who allegedly belong to the "Warla" kidnapping group.

A certain Mikey Ebol, also known as Mike Collado Ebol allegedly leads the kidnapping group that operates in Parañaque, Pasay, Taguig, and Makati.

“It means 'warlalu', let’s get it on, let’s go to war. That is the simple meaning of that. If that’s the case, by saying that, that means the start of perpetration of kidnapping already,” said Col. Hansel Marantan of the CIDG National Capital Region Field Unit.

He said the group’s modus is to lure victims in dating apps and sites, kidnap them, bring the victims to their safehouse, extort money, and drop them off in random places in Metro Manila once the ransom is received.

“Since 2018 they started their nefarious activity and they were able to kidnap 14, based on their revelations, 14 victims already, and they were able to amass more than P5 million. That is on the intention of transgender purpose, more particularly, sexual reassignment surgery,” said Marantan.

The CIDG said they learned about the group after Taiwanese Michael Lee was rescued on September 7, after being kidnapped on September 3 at SM BF Homes, Parañaque. 

Police said the suspects demanded money from the victim’s friends in exchange for his freedom. The victim’s friends were able to send money to 5 different accounts amounting to a total of P308,000.

“They will start asking P500,000 And very short yung negotiation nila, span of time of negotiation, it’s only about 3 to 4 days and that’s it,” said Marantan.

Police also said they already have in their custody three persons linked to the online transactions . 

Marantan said the suspects have amassed P4.2 million in ransom since their inception. The suspects allegedly use the money for sex reassignment surgery.

Investigators also alleged that members of the group were involved in illegal firearms sale.

Villa and Lingo were arrested on September 17, Belonio was nabbed on September 23, while Torres and Pelonio were collared on September 29.

Seized from them were a caliber .38 and 2 caliber .22 revolvers, a 5.56 improvised rifle, ammunition, and marked money.

Charges were filed against the suspects on September 12. 

“Dito sa modus na to, nahihiyang magsalita mga biktima dito, kasi nahihiya nga silang aminin na kaya sila nabiktima dahil naloko sila ng mga LGBT personality,” said Col. Frederick Obar, chief of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group.

(Most of the victims of this scheme are ashamed to speak up because they are ashamed to admit they were victimized by the LGBT.)

Police said they are still looking for Ebol and other members of the gang.

The arrested suspects are also facing criminal complaints for violation of RA 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Law.