Kidnapping complainant vs Trillanes accused of duping overseas Filipinos

Lian Buan

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Kidnapping complainant vs Trillanes accused of duping overseas Filipinos
London-based Myra Cattaneo says she sent money to complainant Guillermina Arcillas as financial aid supposedly for livelihood programs, not for Liberal Party operations as alleged

MANILA, Philippines – A London-based Filipina alleged that the woman who filed a kidnapping complaint against former senator Antonio Trillanes IV extorted almost P200,000 from her and other people with links to supporters of the opposition.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is now investigating the kidnapping complaint of Davao City-based Guillermina Arcillas, who claimed that Trillanes, lawyer Jude Sabio, and Jesuit priest Fr Albert Alejo held her at a convent in Manila in December 2016 and barred her from leaving while forcing her to sign an affidavit that would accuse President Rodrigo Duterte of involvement in the drug trade.

In Arcilla’s affidavit sent to the DOJ, she named London-based Myra Cattaneo as the person who was supposedly the first to get in touch with her, and who supposedly coached her to rant against Duterte on social media in exchange for money.

Cattaneo denied the accusation, and told Rappler in a phone interview that she was preparing an affidavit to submit to the DOJ to explain that Arcillas extorted money from her and other individuals for supposed livelihood programs.

“Nag-agree na ‘ko na mag testify ako if need be (I have agreed to testify if need be),” said Cattaneo.

How they knew each other

In Arcillas’ affidavit, she identified herself as former operations manager of a bus company who has “always [had] a soft heart for the poor.”

Arcillas said she was connected to former Davao City mayor Duterte through now Senator Bong Go to ask for financial assistance for a neighbor with breast cancer. Arcillas said Duterte met with them and assured them of help, but that the President supposedly told her “he could no longer provide said financial help due to government restrictions in the disbursement of public funds.”

“I thereafter expressed my deep hurt and disappointment by posting in my Facebook account a picture of my group with Mayor Duterte with [the] caption ‘pangako napako’ (a broken promise),” Arcillas said in her affidavit.

That’s supposedly when Cattaneo reached out to her, and started paying her for more posts against Duterte.

“I don’t even know that post,” Cattaneo told Rappler.

In Cattaneo’s version of events, she was introduced to Arcillas in June 2016 by friends who either had links to or who were supporters of the opposition.

“Nagpapatulong siya na may security threat, nag-message siya sa kaibigan ko, naghahanap siya ng way sino ang makakatulong sa kanya kasi hina-harass daw siya ng tao ni (Paolo) Duterte,” Cattaneo said, referring to the President’s son.

(She said there were threats to her security, she messaged my friend and was looking for someone who could help her because she was supposedly being harassed by the people of Paolo Duterte.)

Cattaneo, who is a board member of the anti-poverty group Filipino Alliance for a Better Society (FABS) International, decided to help Arcillas to fund projects for some beneficiaries in her area.

Cattaneo said she was able to send around P150,000 to Arcillas from July to August 2016 to fund livelihood projects such as making longganisa, waffles, and puto. This was in keeping with FABS work, Cattaneo said.

Cattaneo said an additional P50,000 was sent to Arcillas by other individuals in their group.

“It was not political whatsoever, it was given because she needed it, no connection at all to politics,” said Cattaneo, adding that they required Arcillas to liquidate the funds but the latter could only complete liquidation of around P93,000.

Cattaneo said she has screenshots of all these conversations, which she is prepared to submit to the DOJ. 

‘I warned Fr Alejo’

“In my estimate, I received about P200,000 from Myra from January to August 2016,” Arcillas said in her affidavit, adding that she “used the money in funding rallies of the Liberal Party or gathering of LP supporters and in recruiting persons to join the LP.”

Cattaneo said that by the end of August, when Arcillas could no longer liquidate the funds, she started to become suspicious.

“My last response was to say we’re cutting off, we’ve done our part, so I said I’m going to block all of them because they were harassing me, and then after that daily na sila na may wall post na hindi ko alam kasi I blocked them (they started to post daily about me but I didn’t know because I blocked them),” said Cattaneo.

Cattaneo added that she later heard through friends that Arcillas was volunteering to become a witness in the International Criminal Court (ICC) case against Duterte.

Sabio has addressed this before, saying Arcillas was supposed to submit a complement testimony to the ICC case, but that he decided to drop Arcillas due to arguments over money. Trillanes earlier said Arcillas also did not pass their vetting, as it seemed to them that money was her only motivation.

“I found a way from a friend of mine to connect me with Fr Alejo. Sabi ko sa kanya mag-iingat kay Mina, nag-background check na ‘ko, she also did the extortion thing with other people (I told him to be careful of Mina because I did a background check, she also did the extortion thing with other people),” Cattaneo said.

She added, “I am willing (to go home), and testify.”

The Office of the Solicitor General tried to introduce Arcillas as a witness in the separate sedition investigation related to the Bikoy case, but the DOJ panel did not allow it.

The DOJ has summoned Trillanes to the next hearing on the kidnapping case, set for October 11. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.