PNP to revive search for kidnapped Surigao banker

What his predecessors had failed to do, new Surigao del Norte Provincial Police Director Senior Supt. Gilbert Dela Cruz Cruz has promised to achieve: finally locating kidnapped Fil-Chinese trader Johnson Custodio Cuiting, dead or alive.

“With more than a year since he disappeared, there is the possibility that Mr. Cuiting is already dead but we will try our best to locate him alive if possible and with God’s help", said Police Colonel Cruz, who is the former Special Operations head of the now-defunct Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC).

Cruz, together with then-PACC Chief and now Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senior Supt. Michael Ray Aquino, were among the first PNP officials to head the commission.

Massive search ordered

Cruz belied reports that Cuiting is alive and well in Hong Kong after his family supposedly paid ransom money in exchange for his freedom.

Cruz has already ordered his police intelligence office to conduct a massive search for Cuiting, particularly in the hinterland areas of Surigao del Norte and mountainous areas of San Francisco town (formerly Anao-awon).

P10 million ransom

On January 7, 2009, at around 9:45pm, Cuiting was abducted from his home Ceniza Heights Subdivision in this city by four fully-armed suspects who witnesses described as wearing black jackets, ski masks, and gloves. The suspects supposedly talked in Tagalog with what seemed to be a Visayan accent.

Cuiting was forced at gunpoint to board his own white Toyota Hi-Lux van, which was then used as an escape vehicle. The van was abandoned and recovered at a nearby barangay a day after the businessman was kidnapped.

The kidnappers contacted Cuiting's sister in the United States, Lydia Cuiting-Carvajal, and demanded ten million pesos in exchange for the businessman's safe release.

Communication suddenly stopped

Lydia and her sister, Nenita, arrived in the Philippines a week after the kidnapping but did not receive any further word from either their brother nor his abductors.

“We were ready to give the money but when (we) came to the Philippines, the kidnapers had stopped calling us. The kidnappers didn’t inform us where we will meet and make the deal. We didn’t reach that point because the communication stopped," Lydia disclosed.

At the time of his abduction, Cuiting was the President of the Rural Bank of Placer, Inc. On September 15, 2009, -more than eight months after the crime- Cuiting's sisters held a press conference to express disappointment over the “stalled" investigation, and denounced the mismanaged turn-over of their brother’s case to the Surigao City Police Office. - BS/TJD, GMANews.TV

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