Nine persons and six others who are still unidentified were charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention of “sabungeros” (cockfighting afficionados) in five complaints filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) with the Department of Justice (DOJ) last Friday, March 18.

In a statement, the DOJ said that “the incident arose from the disappearance of victim cockfighters who, in the morning of 13 January 2022, went to the Manila Arena to join the six-Cock Stag Derby.”

The respondents in the complaints were named by the DOJ as Julie Aguilar Patidongan alias “Dondon,” Mark Carlo Evangelista Zabala, Virgilio Pilar Bayog, Roberto Guillema Matillano Jr., Jonas Alegre Alingasa, Johnry Recapor Consolacion, Herolden Alonto, Gler Cudilla, a certain alias “Sir Chief,” and six “John Does.”

The DOJ said that those charged, “who are all members of the security personnel of Manila Arena, allegedly acted in conspiracy when they went to the cock house where the victims were, held them against their will and loaded them in a gray van.”

However, the DOJ statement did not say how many of the 34 reported missing “sabungeros” were reportedly kidnapped and illegal detained by the Manila Arena’s security personnel.

The DOJ said: “One of the victims was able use his phone to contact his father and told him that he was abducted. The father then demanded the owner and the security personnel of Manila Arena to produce his son,” it also said.

“The complainants, who are family members of the victims, sought the assistance of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the PNP which conducted an investigation. The present cases were then referred by the PNP to the DOJ for its appropriate action,” it added.

The DOJ said that its prosecution arm, the National Prosecution Service, “has constituted a panel of prosecutors which will conduct the preliminary investigation of the present cases.”

During the Senate hearing last February, the father of a missing “sabungero” testified that he was able to talk to his son at about 7:45 p.m. last January 13.

The father said that his son named three security guards who herded him (the son) and other “sabungeros” inside a vehicle.

It was not known immediately if the father who testified during the Senate hearing was one of those who filed the complaints with the PNP.

Under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, kidnapping and serious illegal detention is punishable with life imprisonment.

Last March 8, the Office of the President issued an order directing the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the PNP to investigate the disappearances of the “sabungeros” and submit their findings in 30 days.

Prior to the issuance of the Presidential directive, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra had issued an order to the NBI to investigate the disappearances.

Under Department Order No. 042 dated Feb. 17, Guevarra told the NBI “to conduct an investigation on the reported abduction and disappearance of ‘sabungeros’ (cockers/cockfighting aficionados) in various places during the past few weeks and, if evidence warrants, to file the appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act in connection therewith.”

Guevarra also instructed NBI Officer-in-Charge Director Eric B. Distor “to submit reports on the progress of the subject investigation directly to the Office of the Secretary within ten (10) days and periodically thereafter.”

“I am confident that the NBI and the PNP will soon come up with positive results. It is improbable that 34 persons in strikingly similar situations would disappear without a trace,” he pointed out.

Source: Manila Bulletin (