By: Tricia Aquino, InterAksyon.com
"Baffled" is how the father of the student who was reportedly kidnapped at the Ateneo de Manila University on November 21 feels after the Quezon City police denied that the incident ever took place.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the family of the student and the Ateneo de Manila both stood by statements reporting the abduction. On Wednesday, however, police had told media that the whole matter was a misunderstanding and private affair, and in any case not a criminal matter.
Quezon City Police District director Chief Superintendent Richard Albano had said that the parents themselves of the supposed victim and the police Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) "agreed" that no kidnapping took place.
But in a phone interview with InterAksyon.com on the same day, the father rebuffed Albano's statement, and gave a detailed account of how his 20-year-old child, a senior student in Ateneo, was supposedly abducted in one of the campus parking lots by a group of men.
The father, who does not wish for his and his family's identities to be revealed, narrated how he negotiated with the "kidnappers" over calls and text messages throughout the ordeal that he said lasted for about eight hours, from around 7:00 p.m. on November 21, to around 4:00 a.m. the following day.
He said he was accompanied by members of the AKG, which had three vehicles scouring Marikina City and Pasig City, where the abductors supposedly took the student as they waited to be paid a P250,000 ransom. AKG is now in charge of the case.
The father said the Quezon City police itself had nothing to do with the case, and it was the AKG, which is under Camp Crame, that responded within hours of the kidnapping.
"I cannot answer why the QC police is denying," he said. "It puzzles me why the superintendent I haven’t even met would say this."
Ateneo also stands by its statement released Monday which acknowledged that a kidnapping took place on its Loyola campus.
When asked Thursday, however, the school neither confirmed nor denied that it was conducting a parallel investigation, as the student's father claimed.
A father's account
The student's father said he and his wife were having dinner at a mall nearby when they checked up on their child, who had just gone to school to pass a paper - something that they figured should not take more than 20 minutes.
The latter was driving alone.
When the student did not answer their call, the parents figured that the student was just busy or could not hear the phone ring.
After a while, the mother's phone rang. It was a call from the student's phone, but when the mother answered, there was only background noise on the other end. The call was suddenly terminated.
The parents became nervous, and the father said he called their child about ten times, to no avail.
The mother received another call. It was still quiet on the other end.
They had finished their meal and were on their way to the car park when the mother received a text from someone claiming to be one of their child's professors. The latter, introducing himself as "Dale", asked where she was, adding that the student had asked him to text the mother.
By the time she replied to say where they were and to ask if there was anything wrong, the father said, they were already in transit.
When there was no reply, the mother decided to call. "Dale" answered, saying the child needed money and was asking the parents to go to a certain building in the Ateneo campus.
The parents drove to the building and looked for their child there. There was no sign of the student, or of the car. They sought help from the guards, who searched the area, also without success.
The father said he then talked to "Dale" on the phone. The latter supposedly said he taught "Basic Writing" - there was no such subject - and that the student had been contacting him. He added that he saw the student in the building a few minutes before he first texted the mother. The student looked troubled, he said, and tried to ask him for P50,000. He added that he saw the student's car parked in the same building - a location where students are not allowed to park.
Dale said that the student had been taken by "bad men."
The father said he felt something was amiss. Aside from the parking issue, why would the student ask the professor to relay the messages to the parents, when the student could contact them directly?
By then, other students on campus had gathered around them, the father said, including some friends of their child. The students, he said, started calling and asking their peers if they knew where their friend was.
After calls and texts to his child, the father got two replies: "Papa, P250,000 for me, Cubao Jollibee," and "Alone".
He said he doubted whether this was his child texting, judging from the style of the message. He said he replied to say he got the message and that he did not have that much money. He said he pleaded to whoever was handling the phone to not hurt his child.
The same messages from the student's phone were sent to classmates, the mother later learned, according to the father.
The father's brother-in-law contacted a friend in the military who could help. The latter would later be able to trace the student's number, the father said, and found that the person who had it was in the vicinity of a convenience store in Marikina City.
The parents, with relatives in tow, then went to Camp Karingal in Quezon City to file a kidnapping complaint. They then went to the AKG in Camp Crame. Here, operatives discussed the information they had, while the father exchanged calls and texts with persons using three numbers.
The father said he asked to talk to his child. Eventually, he was allowed to hear the student's voice.
"Papa, Papa. I'm okay, they didn't hurt me," he said their child said.
More texts asked the father where he was, telling him again to prepare the ransom. One of them asked him why he had gone to the police.
Meanwhile, the father's sister said one of their cousins had spotted the child's car. The student was in it, supposedly, with what they presumed to be the kidnappers. The cousin was tailing the car, the father said he was told, which was roaming around Marikina. After another update from the cousin, the AKG finally agreed to leave the headquarters.
The husband boarded one of three AKG vehicles and they headed to Marikina. The cousin called to say the car had disappeared.
When the search team caught no sight of the same, the AKG team leader told the father to renew negotiations with the abductors.
He got a text from another unknown number, saying he should not have gambled with his child's life. "We'll send the child's head to your office," he said he was told.
They were on their way to a Marikina mall to regroup when the father's brother called, saying the child had called the grandmother and told her to send help to a Pasig gas station. The child, the parents later said, made up the story about car trouble so as not to alarm the old woman.
It was at the second gas station the team went to that they found the car, and the child seated on one of the benches outside an adjoining convenience store.
The father said he and his child cried upon being reunited. The latter's leg was bruised, said the father, probably because of a struggle against the kidnappers.
The student's face had been covered with a bonnet and a canvas bag, the father said. It appeared that the student was a random target, he added. Valuables were taken, such as a watch, a phone, and cash.
The authorities would later take the car back to Camp Crame for investigation.
The father said he does not know why the child was let go.
"Sablay ito, sablay ito (This isn't working)," the student supposedly heard one of the abductors saying.
They also supposedly warned the student against reporting the incident. "May mata kami sa Ateneo (We have eyes in Ateneo)," they supposedly said.
The father said, "we were victims of a heinous crime," adding that they reported the matter to police and the Ateneo in hopes of warning the institution against similar situations. He said they were insulted by insinuations that no actual abduction took place, and that the whole affair was a made up story.
Late Wednesday, Philippine National Police spokesperson Reuben Theodore Sindac reiterated Albano's statements that there was no such kidnapping that, and that the whole matter was a "misunderstanding". Sindac said the parents had in fact apologized to the AKG.
Ateneo de Manila, contacted by InterAksyon.com on Thursday, said it stood by its last statement released December 2, which confirmed the abduction without providing details. The school had also issued the statement to stress that it was instituting stricter security measures on campus.