“The idea that the police cannot ask questions of the person that knows most about the crime is an infamous decision.” Edwin Meese III
By Alex P. Vidal
If not for the tips provided by the Manila-based Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Manila, the 44 Taiwanese nationals arrested in two raids conducted in the districts of Mandurriao and Jaro in Iloilo City last July 9 for cyber money laundering and telecommunications fraud would still be operating until today.
If they were already in Iloilo City as early as March 2014, why is it that their operations for the last four months were never detected?
With their number, Ilonggos must have seen some if not all of them in shopping malls and in other public places.
For sure, they also commuted in cabs and passenger jeeps and mixed with crowd when they went outside. Hence, the PNP’s intelligence radar should have monitored, or at least gathered reports about the existence of these visitors in two prominent subdivisions.
We’re lucky that these cyber criminals were not terrorists: they would have blown a large part of our city to smithereens. They would have murdered a lot of Ilonggos, plant bombs in schools, government buildings and business establishments. Ilonggos would have been caught flat-footed while the city was being attacked.
Four months is a long period for the terrorists to prepare or launch a sneak or kamikaze attack. We hate to stretch our imagination too far, but in dealing with terrorists, it is always better to be two steps ahead than be sorry and dead.
The sleuthing job for the activities of these Taiwanese visitors was supposed to be not hard. If they rented a house at Phase 5 Imperial VI Subdivision in Brgy. Guzman-Jesena, Mandurriao and at Ledesco Village in Jaro, the residents would have noticed suspicious body movements because of their number.
It’s very unusual for more than 20 persons—all foreign nationals—to stay in one rented subdivision house for more than one month without rousing the suspicion or curiosity of residents in the neighborhood, especially the village officials.
All 44 suspects may have swapped “duties” in the two houses, which they used as headquarters, every now and then. Different faces mixing in two different houses.
According to one elderly male resident, he suspected something fishy when the Taiwanese visitors would never go out, thus he called the attention of their unnamed village official.
Police should investigate why this village official did not alert them earlier. In intelligence report gathering, any tip—serious or just a slip of the tongue—should be considered a breakthrough. No stone should be left unturned during the verification stage.
Supt. Bernard Yang, chief of the PNP’s anti-cyber-crime group based in Camp Crame, Quezon City, told the Ilolio press that the syndicate’s main targets were citizens of mainland China.
They reportedly pretended as representatives of police, insurance companies and courts and duped or coerced gullible individuals and companies mostly in mainland China to deposit large amount of money in a “safe” account or face prosecution for money laundering.
It’s a form of extortion racket.
Despite the delay in information of the syndicate’s presence in our city, we must still laud city police director, Senior Supt. Ruperto Floro, and city police intelligence chief, Supt. Ipil Dueñas and their men, for raiding the house at Ledesco Village where ring leader Chun His Hsu and 19 other fellow Taiwanese nationals were arrested.
We must credit them because no life was lost during the raids, conducted through the search warrants issued by Regional Trial Court, Branch 66 Manila Judge Rainelda Estacaio-Montesa.
Because nobody resisted arrest, police did not have hellish moments to manacle all of them. An excellent job for the raiding team.
We hope all the syndicate members were accounted for and no one managed to slip away. We also hope that police will look into a possibility that the syndicate may have Filipino contacts.