MANILA, Philippines --- Kidnappers are now targeting relatives of inmates confined at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa, and may be behind the recent abduction of high-profile prisoner Rolito Go.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima bared this yesterday based on written reports from Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials detailing the kidnapping incidents.
De Lima, who held office at the BuCor following the indefinite leave of BuCor Director Gaudencio Pangilinan, likened these kidnappings to a "cottage industry" as it involves only small amounts of money.
She said in June and August, there were four kidnappings that involved inmates' wives and relatives.
De Lima said on June 18 this year alone, there were three kidnappings. All of the victims involved the wives of inmates. Two of the incidents happened in Poblacion, Muntinlupa, while the other one happened in Quezon City.
Last August 11, the wife and niece of an NBP inmate were also kidnapped on Pedro Gil Street, Manila.
"This could be a syndicate," De Lima said.
The kidnapping suspects maybe targeting the inmates through their loves ones, the Justice secretary said.
She also revealed that a maximum security inmate escaped last August 11, just days before the disappearance of Go.
The inmate, Rommel Laciste, could have escaped by hiding in a rice delivery truck which entered and left the maximum security compound through Gate 4 last August 11, according to the report submitted to De Lima.
Laciste was reported missing at 8 p.m. after the headcount of prisoners. He is serving life imprisonment for murder.
De Lima said she has ordered the relief of guards and has asked concerned guard officials to explain within 48 hours regarding the Laciste incident.
She said she also talked to Go and he told her about what happened to him and his nephew, Clarence Yu.
De Lima said Go told her that the kidnappers initially demanded P100 million then it went down to P50 million. Go made a counter offer of P1 million but the ransom was never paid to the kidnappers.
She is puzzled about Go's story.
"If the abduction was true, what was the motive?" she said.
De Lima also said Go's account that he fought with his kidnappers is "difficult to believe."
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is conducting its own investigation and will submit a report to De Lima on August 22.
There are 20,680 prisoners confined at the NBP, of which 12,623 are at the maximum security facility.