Thursday, August 13, 2009

False kidnap, rape report upsets Arroyo

MANILA – President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo demanded explanation from her top aides on Tuesday after investigators found out that the alleged abduction and rape of an anti-drug agent’s daughter, which was brought to her attention on Monday, did not actually happen.

A visibly upset Arroyo ordered the heads of law enforcement agencies to submit to her their report on the incident within 24 hours.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the President directed Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita to call the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) “to leave no stone unturned in the investigations of this case.”

A local police official earlier confirmed that the alleged incident reported in a major newspaper was a hoax.

The head of the Cordillera Autonomous Region police told authorities that the girl was neither abducted nor raped, citing testimonies by the girl’s acquaintances.

“If we base our findings on the testimonies of the teenagers seen with her before she was supposedly kidnapped, there was no abduction and no rape, and she was not forced to take drugs,” Cordillera regional police head Chief Superintendent Orlando Pesta,” said in a radio interview.

However, Remonde said the government will stick to its all-out war against the illegal drug trade despite the humiliating development.

Remonde admitted that he was the one who reported to the President about the alleged crime without verifying it first.

He explained that “the editor-in-chief of the Philippine Daily Inquirer was the one who informed him about the alleged abduction and rape of the young daughter of an anti-drug agent last Sunday night.”

The false report then spread to other government offices and media organizations, eliciting harsh responses from top government officials, including Remonde who declared that “this is now a war on drugs.”

The chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Dionisio Santiago, even vowed to wage a “Mexican-style” campaign against drug lords while the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Prospero Nograles, called for the revival of the death penalty for drug traffickers.

Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo conceded that Malacaang reacted too soon to the alleged incident.

However, Fajardo brushed aside insinuations that Arroyo was a victim of a hoax after she expressed concern over the alleged drug-related offense and directed authorities to run after the perpetrators, and provide aid to the victim.

She said the President’s outrage over the alleged crime was just a natural reaction as a mother when she first heard the news.

She denied that Malacanang was careless in dealing with the raw report, saying the Palace had directed the concerned authorities to verify the alleged crime. – SG