MANILA - Two police officers, a dismissed lawman and another suspect linked to a syndicate behind the kidnap-slay of a Chinese businessman were killed in a shootout with police operatives in Carmona, Cavite early Friday morning.
The Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) believe the suspects were behind the kidnapping and killing of 55-year-old Chinese junket operator Carlos Tan, whose body was found in Tagaytay City on Oct. 23.
Authorities identified the slain suspects as PO3 Rodel Estonactoc, PO1 Rolando Albios, dismissed PO1 Ramil Espejo, and civilian asset Erwin Escobido.
Three others are at large.
“Sa criminal records nila, etong si PO1 Estonactoc at PO1 Espejo, they are batchmates sa pagpupulis. Pareho din sila ng kaso sa Binangonan RTC (Regional Trial Court). Drug case. Actually they have a case na ongoing doon... Tapos may mga homicide for reckless imprudence, unjust vexation," said PNP-AKG Director Glenn Dumlao.
"In so doing, nagkaroon sila ng administrative cases, kaya natanggal itong si Espejo while si Estonactoc, he was able to ease his way back into service. Kaya lang nasa DHSU (District Headquarters Support Unit) siya, holding pa rin mga derogatory records niya,” Dumlao explained.
Espejo was terminated while stationed at the Rizal provincial police office for robbery and extortion, while Estonactoc was suspended from service due to an administrative case.
“Nakita ko 'yung nag-shift sila from drugs to KFR, 'yung kaso nila sa Binangonan RTC illegal possession of drugs. Nag-iba sila ng trade kasi 'di ba ang campaign namin, drugs eh, hit them hard kaya natatakot sila. Dito na lang sila ngayon,” Dumlao said.
Among the gang's victims, Tan, a Chinese national, managed a junket operation catering to Chinese and Korean high roller gamblers. He also co-managed 4 VIP casinos in Pasay City and at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.
Tan’s body was found in a ravine in Brgy. San Jose in Tagaytay City two days after kidnappers took him while travelling along the NAIA Expressway on his way to Entertainment City in Parañaque on Oct. 21.
Tagaytay Police chief Supt. Ronan Claravall said Tan sustained a single gunshot wound on his head, which was wrapped with packaging tape.
“Nakita po ng security guard may cadaver kaya itinawag sa amin. Nakabalot po siya ng masking tape, nakatali po ang kamay niya ng shoe lace. Malalim, maulan, may kahirapan po ma-retrieve ang katawan ng tao. According to SOCO (Scene of the Crime Operatives), meron po siyang tama ng baril sa ulo,” Claravall said.
Citing the narration of Tan's driver, Dumlao said a vehicle bumped the rear of the victim's Alphard, which prompted both the driver and Tan to stop, get out of the car and and check for damages.
The suspects suddenly approached, forcing them back inside.
“Mga wee hours in the morning, nagpaalam na pupunta ng Okada para magpa-masahe, na-cut ng dalawang sasakyan. Several malefactors approached them, forcibly pushed them inside the Alphard of Tan, blindfolded and tied [their hands],” Dumlao said.
The kidnappers released Tan's driver when they reached Tagaytay by Sunday.
“We conducted backtracking basing sa mga revelation niya. Nag-umpisa kami sa Tagaytay area na may mga CCTV footage kami nakuha at nakatulong talaga 'yon. At saka doon sa mga revelations niya, binalot ng duct tape si Mr. Tan," Dumlao said.
"And then, narinig niya na may dalawang putok nung nakahinto sila. Na-sense niya na itinapon na nga si Mr Tan. From there also, nag-backtrack kami. Dalawa ang binacktrack namin, 'yung Talisay at papuntang Tagaytay,” Dumlao said.
Dumlao said Tan’s kidnappers contacted his family using his cellphone and demanded an initial ransom of P50 million, which eventually went down to P10 million.
“Nakatanggap sila ng tawag from [the cellphone] of the victim. Nasa amin ang pamangkin mo and we need P50 million,” Dumlao said.
When the report reached the police, the PNP-Anti Kidnapping Action Team immediately organized a rescue operation.
CCTV footage taken at the Tagaytay Rotunda around the time of the incident showed the victim’s vehicle.
“We really got a break sa CCTV... malaking tulong sa amin kasi even doon sa Silang, 'yung sasakyan ng biktima, 'yung Alphard, was recovered. Malinaw ang CCTV nila, doon kami nagkaroon ng break, mga witnesses na nagsabi na ang sasakyang ito ay ginamit ng mga suspects noong iniwan nila ang sasakyan. Sumakay doon, 'yun ang reference namin,” Dumlao said.
“From the CCTVs, na-profile namin kung saan sila naglalagi. Paliparan, Dasmariñas, Silang, Biñan, 'yun ang lakad nila. Noong una, Tagaytay to Nasugbu ang daan nila. Very lucky na may reference point tayo ng sasakyan, nasundan,” he added.
PNP-AKG operatives then traced the suspects in Brgy. Tumalim, Nasugbu, Batangas where they initially believed the victim was hidden and where negotiations took place.
The victim’s vehicle was also monitored on a CCTV in Cavite.
“After trailing the suspects kaninang umaga sa Carmona, Cavite, nakahalata ang mga suspect and an encounter with the police operatives ensued," Dumlao said.
"Sa engkuwentro na 'yan, nakuha lang ang apat, we are still pursuing tatlong tao, pito sila. Positive na ito ay mga pulis, except 'yung isa, sibilyan, at 'yung relo actually ng biktima, nakuha pa doon sa isang suspek na namatay,” Dumlao said.