Police kill three kidnappers in Philippines


MANILA, AFP

Three members of a notorious Philippines kidnap gang were killed and three others were arrested in separate anti-crime operations at the weekend, the police chief said Sunday.

A police anti-kidnapping crack team caught up with members of the Villaver kidnap gang near the town of Marilao north of Manila Saturday, triggering a firefight that left three of the suspects dead, national police chief Hermogenes Ebdane said.

Among those killed was gang leader Roland Villaver, who had been previously arrested on kidnapping charges.

Villaver’s group operates under a larger criminal organization called the Fajardo kidnap gang, which is on top of an “order of battle” list of police priorities submitted to President Gloria Arroyo last week, Ebdane said in a statement.

Three other Villaver gang members were arrested in a separate operation and presented to Interior Secretary Jose Lina on Saturday, Ebdane said without elaborating.

Police have blamed the Villaver group for a series of abductions in Manila and nearby suburban areas, including the kidnapping last year of a Chinese Filipino businesswoman who was found dead in a gang safehouse near the capital.

The weekend operations were carried out by the Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response unit, also known as PACER, which was created by Arroyo last week and is allowed to use military-style tactics to go after kidnappers and drug dealers.

The Philippines has been plagued by kidnappings. Police statistics show 47 people were kidnapped in 36 incidents between January 1 and July 8 this year. Twenty of the cases are still unsolved.

The president has acknowledged that law and order problems, including the kidnappings of local and foreign businessmen, were helping to erode the Philippines’ global competitiveness.

She has pledged to crush kidnap gangs over the next year.