MALACANANG, December 5, 2003  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - President Arroyo vowed yesterday to make the Christmas season "kidnap-free" as she ordered a number of security measures during a meeting with officials of the inter-agency National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force (Naktaf) at Malacañang. Mrs. Arroyo said she has directed Naktaf chief and former defense secretary Angelo Reyes to crack down on rogue policemen and soldiers who are believed to be involved in the spate of kidnappings that again hit the country recently.

"The Naktaf has formulated, following my directive, to institute certain security measures to curb kidnapping. We need to implement these measures immediately in order to achieve my desire of having a kidnap-free Christmas season," the President said.

"We need to demonstrate government resolve and capability to address this kidnapping menace," she added.

The President bared some of the security measures in a meeting with Metro Manila mayors, businessmen and leaders of the Filipino-Chinese community, which has been the biggest victim of kidnappings.

Among the measures, Mrs. Arroyo said, is a thorough investigation she has ordered on suspected scalawags in uniform.

"The involvement in kidnappings of scalawags in uniform is the subject of an in-depth probe being conducted by Naktaf which will undertake cleansing and isolation measures among units assigned to anti-kidnapping operations," the President said.

She said both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have undergone a quiet "internal house cleaning" in the anti-drug campaign and it has "reaped results."

Mrs. Arroyo called on the public to come forward with any information on policemen or soldiers involved in criminal activities.

"If anyone has suspicions or proof about any cops being involved in the kidnap trade, this should be reported directly to Secretary Reyes so he can take it from there," she said.

But the President stressed that there are only a few scalawags in uniform and that most of those in the uniformed services are true to their task of enforcing the law.

"I would like to congratulate those who were able to neutralize the criminal gang (on Wednesday)," she said, referring to Western Police District (WPD) operatives who intercepted and killed six suspected members of a criminal gang in Manila. Eliseo Corpuz Gang Neutralized

WPD anti-kidnapping operatives spotted the six suspects on board a heavily tinted Hyundai van without license plates.

The policemen chased the vehicle but were fired upon by another group who were tailing the lawmen in a Toyota Tamaraw FX van with license plates PVF-777.

The suspects on both vehicles opened fire, triggering a three-minute gunbattle along Sergio Osmeña Avenue in San Andres, Manila which left all the suspects dead.

According to WPD director Chief Superintendent Pedro Bulaong, one of the suspects slain in the shootout was a convicted Philippine Marine trooper who escaped from prison and founded a notorious criminal gang.

Bulaong said Eliseo Corpuz, 48, of Oagui, Luna, La Union was convicted for armed robbery on Mar. 1, 1994 but escaped from the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City in 1997.

He then formed the Eliseo Corpuz gang, which is believed to have been involved in kidnapping, car theft and bank robbery.

Bulaong identified the five other slain suspects as Cenando Lannu, 53, a retired Army master sergeant of Vista Alegre, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya; Romeo de los Santos, 37, a driver, of Block 38, Welfareville Subdivision, Mandaluyong City; Rodolfo Oanes, 40, a tourist guide, of J. Bocobo, Malate, Manila; Geronimo Lopez, 43, a driver, of 129 Kalentong St., Mandaluyong City; and Edgar Sumido, 49, a former rebel, of Alta Tierra Village, Jaro, Iloilo.

The bodies of the suspects were identified either by their wives or relatives and through licenses and IDs recovered from them, according to Bulaong.

Lawmen also recovered two caliber .45 automatics, a baby Armalite rifle, a grenade and two black bonnets.

A set of license plates XDL-469 was recovered inside the Hyundai van and sketches showing the location of United Coconut Planters Bank and Philippine National Bank branches, which police said could be the targets of the suspects, were also found inside the van.

A police identification card bearing the name of PO1 Sherwin Esguerra of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) intelligence unit was recovered inside the Tamaraw FX van.

Police said the Hyundai van was forcibly taken from its driver, Darwin Manalo, at about 10:35 p.m. last Dec. 1 at the parking lot of Rizal Memorial Stadium along Vito Cruz. The van’s ownership was traced to Teodulo Abanador, a reporter of Balitang Bayan and Toro tabloids.

Bulaong said he will recommend the promotions of the anti-carnapping operatives, led by Senior Inspector Leopoldo Mangilinan, for the successful neutralization of the Eliseo Corpuz gang. — With Nestor Etolle, Pia Lee-Brago

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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