Letran student kidnapping: A fraternity initiation gone wrong?
MANILA, Philippines – How could college students dare to kidnap a 19-year-old from Letran and throw away the life ahead of them?
According to their former high school classmates reached by Rappler, the whole incident might have just been a fraternity initiation gone wrong — a case of freshmen trying to adjust to the whirlwind college life by joining a fraternity.
Of the 10 suspects in the kidnapping of the Letran student, 7 graduated this year from the Letran Senior High School, their batchmates told Rappler.
“Maloko po sila in terms sa ingay and nagcucutting minsan but they are really good and nice inside. Nakasama ko po sila 2 years and nakilala ko po sila sa sandaling yun,” Annie* said.
(They are humorous and noisy, they cut classes sometimes, but they are really good and nice inside. I spent 2 years with them, and I got to know them in that short time.)
“Sa way po ng pagkakarelay para nga pong nakidnap. Pero kung iisipin po plausible po na initation rite lang,” Charles* added. (The way it was presented, it looked like a kidnapping. But if you think hard, you’d see that it’s plausible that it’s just an initiation rite.)
High school ‘tropa’
Most of the suspects have known each other for years.
According to Annie and Charles, the following studied in Letran Senior High School (SHS) with them and graduated this April 2018:
- Justine Mahipus
- Eriek Candava
- Billy Rocillo
- Miguel Austria
- Kim Pascua
- Gabriel Rabi
- Arvi Velasquez
“Tropa-tropa po 'yang mga 'yan sa SHS (They stayed in the same group),” Charles said, describing their pack as “low-key” during their high school days.
“Medyo may kakulitan pero hindi naman grabe na skandaloso na (They were naughty but not scandalous),” he added.
The alleged mastermind Jhulius Atabay and arrested suspects Ferdinand dela Vega Jr and Ralph Emmanuel Camaya may have just been new friends of the group, Charles and Annie said.
Sources said Dela Vega, Camaya, and Atabay were also students of Letran SHS, but they belonged to higher batches.
Citing statements given to them by the arrested suspects, Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Kidnapping Group chief of staff Senior Superintendent Jose Molave Dueñas explained how the kidnapping could just be an awry fraternity initiation rite.
“Sinasabi nila na napilitan lang daw sila, at nadawit lang sila (They said they were only forced, they were only caught at the wrong time),” Dueñas told Rappler in an interview.
The same information has spread within the Letran SHS circles, said Charles and Annie.
“Napag-utusan daw po itong si Mahipus at Pascua na magdala ng sasakyan. 'Di daw nila alam na kidnap na (They said Mahipus and Pascua were just ordered to bring cars. They did not know that they were engaging in a kidnapping),” Charles said.
“Si Atabay daw po ang pinaka-may alam (Atabay was the mastermind),” Charles added.
According to Charles, his high school classmates wouldn’t be serious in demanding P30 million, as their families were well-off as evidenced by their education in a private Catholic school.
PNP AKG head Chief Superintendent Glenn Dumlao, meanwhile, disclosed in a radio interview on Monday that a suspect, Ferdinand dela Vega Jr, was instructed by Atabay to guard the victim for an initiation.
“Ang pagkasabi nong iniwan ni Jhulius Atabay kay Ferdinand dela Vega [Jr], bantayan mo 'yan wag tatanggalin ang piring ng mata 'wag papakainin at 'wag papainumin at 'wag kausapin. Ini-initiate namin’yan sa fraternity,” Dumlao said.
(What was said was that Atabay told Dela Vega ‘guard him, don’t remove his eye cover, don’t feed him or give him a drink, and don’t speak with him. We are initiating him in the fraternity.)
Either a kidnapping or an initiation rite, the fingers point to Atabay as the mastermind. Atabay, meanwhile, told cops that even he himself was forced to engage in the initiation.
The suspects have yet to explain their statements relayed to cops. During a press conference when their case was presented to media, the suspects decided to remain silent and not face reporters.
Just an alibi?
For PNP AKG, the fraternity angle is only a convenient escape route for the suspects.
Understandably so, as kidnapping is punishable by life imprisonment, while unauthorized initiation rites which result to injuries that do not prevent the victim from engaging in his habitual activity or work can only be punishable with a maximum of 6 years in jail.
Addressing the concern that only naive students would demand P30 million, Dueñas countered saying that the big amount fits the profile of real kidnappers.
“In kidnaps-for-ransom, they always demand high amounts then they haggle until they reach a time where they meet the family at a price. They never know how much the family is willing to go,” Dueñas said.
The arrested boys’ cases have already been forwarded to the Department of Justice for resolution.
Dueñas said the PNP AKG has an “airtight case” against the students, explaining that even if the boys prove that they only wanted to join a fraternity instead of gaining P30 million, the act of detaining a person against his will remains as a kidnapping case.
“The mere fact na they took the person, they employed violence, and they demanded a ransom is no longer a fraternity activity it's already a criminal activity,” Dueñas said, admitting that he also felt pity for the boys. (We are also human, but), we need to fully enforce our laws,” he added. – Rappler.com