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MANILA´S CHINATOWN CLOSES TO PROTEST KIDNAPPINGS

Updated: December 07, 1997 05:00 PM GMT
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Businesses in Manila´s Chinatown closed and Chinese schools suspended classes recently to protest alleged police incompetence in solving hundreds of kidnappings targeting mostly Filipinos of Chinese ancestry.

"We are angry, and we are suffering. We cannot arm ourselves, and we still rely on the police to solve these crimes," according to Teresita Ang See.

Ang See is spokesperson of the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order - Citizen´s Action Against Crime, which organized the Dec. 2 protest to coincide with the funeral of murdered businessman Gordon Tan, 24.

Tan was shot dead Nov. 24 in an attempted abduction in front of his family´s shoe factory in Guiguinto, Bulacan, 25 kilometers northwest of Manila.

Thousands wearing black armbands and red and white ribbon on their shirts joined the funeral cortege with vehicles carrying signs such as "Justice for All Kidnap Victims" and "Justice for Gordon Tan."

Half of the businesses in Binondo, downtown Manila, closed for the morning of the funeral, while the 37 Chinese-language schools in Manila and nearby cities suspended classes for the day.

"Public opinion and public pressure is the only weapon we know against well-organized, well-armed, well-funded and well-supported criminal gangs," Ang See wrote in a Dec. 1 statement calling for the protest.

"We do not have foreign embassies or the Vatican burning the wires for us, we only have our Philippine government, but it has fallen short of its duties to protect our lives," she added.

Negotiations for the release of Irish Columban Monsignor Desmond Hartford of Marawi, who was taken hostage in October by former Muslim rebels, were monitored by both the Vatican and the Irish government.

Even as the group protested Tan´s killing, two Chinese-Filipino businessmen and two children were reportedly abducted in several incidents Dec. 2.

Also, 25-year-old Ignacio Earl Ong Jr., son-in-law of business magnate John Gokongwei, was killed in a shoot-out between kidnappers and police in Batangas province, south of Manila. Four of Ong´s abductors were also killed, and a fifth suspect was arrested.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ricaredo Sarmiento II announced an "all-out war" against kidnap syndicates and warned police chiefs and station commanders that they will be relieved of their posts if kidnapping remains rampant in their respective jurisdictions.

The "Philippine Star" national daily reported Dec. 3 that 41.5 percent of 1997 kidnappings occurred on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, while 39.2 percent took place in Manila and nearby cities.

Police records indicate 98 kidnappings were committed from January-September 1997, compared with 47 for all of 1996.

However, Ang See said there were 124 kidnappings for ransom from January-October this year involving 193 victims, most of them Filipinos of Chinese ancestry, and said victims´ families have paid 292 million pesos (US$8.49 million) in ransom.

END

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