This was sooo frustrating, annoying, horrible, atrocious, repulsive and what have you.. and yet you want to turn hell against the perpetrators of the crime that you do not know. Everybody seemed so helpless; everything seemed to be held hostage. And all that you can do was sympathize with the family whose identity you cannot divulge. And even the act of sympathizing, though utterly necessary, is something that you would want to withhold still.
Oh my God. If only that somebody did not say: “There is no such thing as perfect crime”, I am almost tempted to say: this is one perfect crime. Now all that I can say is: “this is one of a kind.” Criminals are getting more and more creative, this time preying on a mother’s soft heart and unqualified love for a child.
This posting is my own accession to this (great) mother’s request to share this horrible experience so people (especially those living in Metro Manila) are warned of this modus operandi and take all the necessary precaution to avoid being caught in similar situation.
Frankly, I had reservations and hesitations to make this posting as this puts Manila in bad light, in particular, and the Philippines in general. But there again, the safety of people from this kind of criminal folly weighed more for me.
And so I share this (great) mother’s ordeal below as narrated by her:
“These words jumped out at me when I got Mau’s text and it sent a cold chill through my body. He had just left the house an hour earlier to get a haircut and to go to the gym. I, on the other hand, was out of the house before 7am that day because it was the birthday of our family patriarch.”
“That text started an intense exchange of messages between Mau and I, with Mau replying the way the kidnappers wanted him to reply because they had his phone. He said they knew enough basic information about us like where I worked and what my position was, and where his sister and son went to school. The message was clear: these people could do us harm if they wanted and when they wanted so we better cooperate.”
“Mau’s ordeal started at around noon on September 18th at the Greenhills car park in front of Virra Mall. He was walking towards the mall when a dark colored SUV with ‘casa’ plates pulled up beside him. The man in the front passenger seat pointed a gun at him and quietly told him to go with them then the back door opened and another man let Mau into the SUV.”
“Before they made him put on a bean cap to cover his eyes, Mau saw four men in the SUV – one driver and three pasengers. All men wore either wigs, baseball caps, or shades, and he was sandwiched in between the two men in the back seat. All passengers had guns.”
“Their first demand was **M – when Mau said we didn’t have that kind of money, someone hit him in the back of his head and said they knew where I worked plus where the two other kids were going to school. Because the kidnappers had Mau’s phone and there was no way to know at that time if the family was safe or if we were also in danger, Mau chose to cooperate.”
“The kidnappers first had Mau withdraw and max out his ATM card. When I was able to deposit the ransom money into Mau’s account, they drove to different branches of the bank to have him withdraw the cash. Before they let Mau go into the bank, one of the men beside him in the back would get out of the SUV then the rest would rattle off all sorts of threatening instructions.”
“With a bean cap covering his eyes when he was in the SUV, Mau said he could hear traffic so he knows they were just driving around the city. It agitates me to think that my son was helplessly sandwiched in between gun-toting men in a tinted and unmarked SUV driving around Metro Manila and no one had any idea what was going on in that vehicle! We could have even been side by side with that SUV in traffic that day!”
“After Mau was able to give the kidnappers the ransom money they demanded for, they had him text me that they were going to let him go but they didn’t do that immediately. There was more driving around as they went through his personal things for whatever cash he had on him and even had Mau swipe his phone so it could not be traced. It wasn’t until about four long agonizing hours after they got the ransom money that Mau was finally home safe. The entire ordeal lasted over six hours.”
“When Mau was abducted in Greenhills, there was no security or police in the car park. When he went to the banks, the bank officers didn’t think there was anything suspicious about the sudden huge withdrawals and didn’t ask him if anything was wrong. Mau had no idea where the family was or if other perpetrators had or could easily get to any one or all of us so he played along and followed all the instructions given to him – he felt that was the only way he could ensure that no harm would come to us and that he would keep us safe.”
“Through that entire ordeal, I had only one prayer: God, please don’t let me lose another son! Mau later told me that he prayed for one thing, too: “God, if I’m to die, please don’t make it a horrible death that my family will be traumatized again!”
“We do not seek for the return of the ransom money or that the kidnappers be caught. We cooperated and gave in to the kidnappers’ demands so Mau could be released and allowed home safely. Do we seek justice? No! We just want to be left alone.”
“We do want people to be aware and to know that there is this modus operandi happening around us in the city – fast and easy money deals through ATM and almost effortless bank withdrawals without extended captivity and with minimal harm done. All in broad daylight and on busy city streets.”
“My tears have not stopped over what happened – I am overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness and anxiety, not knowing if the person beside us has anything to do with Mau’s kidnapping. I feel violated and frustrated that I was not able to keep my son safe, that because of my job I am partly to blame. But my family and I will move forward from this, no matter how long the traumatic and emotional wounds take to heal.”
“Be careful and vigilant of those around you. Don’t be so trusting because you can never be sure if the people you trust your lives with may also be the people who will hurt you. Come up with ways to communicate with each other in times like this. Talk in codes that only you can understand among yourselves. Agree on a meeting place – somewhere safe to gather together. Lastly, hold your family and loved ones close. Always know where they are and always tell them you love them.”
“Stay safe and please share this story so others may also be safe.”
(Note: Many, many thanks to those who supported and saw my family and I through this ordeal. For your own safety, we will not say who you are but you know who we mean – our appreciation to you all is immeasurable.)
The victim incidentally happened to be my namesake, but it was definitely not me. My mother was gone far ahead of us.
The only way to have a fighting chance in this kind of crime is to be as creative if not more than the criminals. One way is to install a silent electronic alarm device very much like that of the ones installed in banks and pawnshops. This electronic alarm alerts the police and other authorities once pressed. In the case of banks and pawnshops, the device tells the police the exact location of an on-going crime. For vehicles, it should include the most conspicuous identities such as color, make, plate number and even location. My son (an electronic communications engineer) tells me that this is possible. For the ‘kidnapable’ ones, it pays to spend a few hundred thousand pesos more to buy your safety than to spend millions in ransom. A CCTV camera (of course, it should be disguised as something else) installed in the vehicle may also be a value-added device to augment the electronic alarm.
In addition to this device, some preemptive measures can be done such as the following:
1. Do not go out alone, or better still, get a blue guard or two to secure you;
2. Always inform the other members of the family as to your whereabouts;
3. Buy a firearm with license and permit to carry and hone your skill in the firing range; 4. Plan out a fast but discreet communication system among members of the family; and 5. Always think that you are a ‘kidnapable’ anytime all the time once you have entered this ‘exclusive club’.
A former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department once said.. “The only way to fight crime is to think and act like a criminal”.