2 Cotabato execs linked to kidnappings

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Friday, February 4, 2011

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Two local government officials in Cotabato City were tagged as suspects in the series of kidnapping incidents in the locality, police said Friday.

Southwestern Mindanao Police Director Gil Meneses said they had requested the inclusion of Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin G. Sema and his nephew Councilor Sukarno Sema on an amended kidnapping case along with more than a dozen personalities.

Meneses said they currently have in their custody seven suspects who were recently arrested in a checkpoint in this city, and that pursuit operations are ongoing against several other suspected kidnappers.


Chief Inspector Jomar Yap, Southwestern Mindanao police spokesperson, said the local prosecutor has recommended the filing of kidnapping charges against the Semas based on the information and evidences gathered by the police.

"As I understand it, the case against him [Vice Mayor Sema] was filed but the judge inhibited himself apparently for security reasons," Yap said.

He said special prosecutor Al Calica will handle the kidnapping case and would seek the transfer of the trial possibly to a court in this city.

The two Cotabato City officials were allegedly involved in the spate of kidnapping incidents in the city since last year, Yap said.

But lawyer Omar Sema, legal counsel of the two officials, told Catholic-run dxMS that the vice mayor and the councilor "are not yet considered accused but just suspects" of kidnapping.

"Including the two local officials in the kidnapping charge sheet has no basis," he said, adding they already filed a motion to oppose the amended information sheet.

Cotabato City was marred again by a series of kidnapping incidents victimizing Filipino-Chinese businessmen.

In early October, armed men abducted Filipino-Chinese businesswoman Conchita Tan near her home along Barangay Rosary Heights.

The two bodyguards of Tan, a wife of local wealthy businessman Lucio Tan, were killed when they fought the kidnappers, police said. The Tans own the LCT Hardware in the area.

The kidnap victim was eventually released after her family allegedly paid a hefty ransom.

In August, the kidnapping of another Filipino-Chinese trader shocked the business sector in Cotabato City.

Nelson Tay, who was snatched in his store along a busy street by armed men posing as soldiers, was released days later after paying "board and lodging fees," a euphemism for ransom payment.

The two abductions triggered calls from the business and religious sector to strengthen security measures in the locality, eventually resulting in the deployment of a battalion of Philippine Marines in the area.

But even with the augmentation of Marines, kidnappers struck anew last January, abducting a Filipino-Chinese businessman outside the city's premier hotel.

Eulogio Ading Lim Yu, 56, owner of Yuking Guan Trading, had just emerged from the casino of the Estosan Hotel when snatched by armed men.

His wife escaped abduction after running back to the hotel as shown by a closed circuit television camera. (Bong S. Sarmiento/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 05, 2011.

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