Suspect in kidnap-for-ransom of BIR officials killed in Bulacan

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 15) — One of the suspects behind the kidnapping of Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) officials was killed on Thursday, police said. Three other members of the crime syndicate involved in kidnap-for-ransom incidents were arrested by authorities during the simultaneous raids held in Caloocan and Bulacan.

Metro Manila Police Chief Guillermo Eleazar said the suspect, identified as Leo dela Fuente from Barangay Socorro in Quezon City, was killed during a joint police operation in the syndicate's safe house in Marilao, Bulacan early Thursday morning. He said the authorities served a search warrant when the suspect engaged the police in a firefight. Among those recovered in the house were eight firearms, a hand grenade, an empty vault, and police uniforms without serial numbers worn by the abductors.

Eleazar described dela Fuente as "a main player" in the crime syndicate. He also revealed some active police personnel and retired military officials are also part of the group.

He revealed the tactics of the syndicate in order to extort money from businessmen, particularly BIR officials.

"They accost these victims — may ibang nakasuot pa ng PNP uniform. After they accost the victim, hinihingan ito ng pera. Either sa kanila mismo manghihingi or sa relatives nila. Ang kaibahan nito sa ibang mga kidnap-for-ransom victims, ito ay mabilisan lang. Hindi na ito pinagpapalipas pa ng isang araw," he said in a media briefing.

[Translation: They accost these victims, with some of the kidnappers wearing police uniforms. After they accost them, they extort money from the victims themselves or their family. What sets this apart from other kidnap-for-ransom operations is that it's a swift transaction. It doesn't last for more than a day. The victims are released after the ransom is paid.]

Authorities have yet to determine the number of BIR officials who have been kidnapped in recent years. Eleazar said there are no official police reports received on these cases since the affected families are scared to go forward. But Eleazar said they have been monitoring the actions of the syndicate for over a year.

"We don't have complete details because of the apparent refusal of the victims to file complaints with authorities," he told CNN Philippines.