By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
AUTHORITIES over the weekend called on citizens victimized by a group caught by the police for allegedly being behind “budol-budol” schemes here to come forward and file their complaints as authorities build and strengthen their case against the suspects.
The suspects, two of them senior citizens, are known to target unaccompanied elderly women who are making transactions in banks or people in the malls, police alleged.
Investigators said the suspects go around in search for potential victims. Once they spot a person who they think is gullible and can be manipulated, they approach her, win her trust and take her cash and other valuables away in exchange for a bundle of fake money.
Arrested by the Cogon police were Romeo Rivera, 72, of Ongio, Butuan City; Josie Barba, 62, widow, of Lapayan, Iligan City; Gina Pardillo, 53, of Lapayan; Mary Ann Torres, 48, of Lapayan; and Dexter Maglasang, 39, of Tagum City.
“They are really good at sweet-talking their victims, and they can make them feel at ease,” Cogon police station commander Capt. Tessie Lleva said.
The suspects were arrested as they were about to victimize an elderly woman in front of an automated teller machine along Corrales Ave. Thursday afternoon.
Lleva said officers were in the area because of a complaint against a pickpocket, and then they spotted the group with their would-be victim outside a commercial establishment.
She said that when the suspects saw the officers coming their way, the gang tried to escape with a getaway vehicle. They were caught near the corner of Corrales and CM Recto avenues a few minutes later.
“Based on the number of CCTV footages we have on these suspects, we are already familiar with their profile and even the vehicle that they use to escape after committing ‘budol-budol’ in the city,” she added.
Seized from the suspects were a bundle of fake money and paper, writing pads, a caliber .38 revolver with bullets, and a grenade. The blue Toyota Revo the perpetrators use was also taken by the police.
Dubbed by the Cogon police as the “Rivera Budol-Budol Gang,” the group, based in Tagum, has allegedly been victimizing several old women in different parts of the city and in other areas in Mindanao since 2017, Lleva said.
Just this June, an elderly woman was divested of more than P300,000 in cash, jewelry, and other valuable items due to “budol-budol.”
Lleva said they are still verifying if it was Rivera’s group that swindled that woman.
Since the group has a vehicle, they don’t stay in one place after victimizing someone.
“They are mobile. They usually go back to Tagum after committing the act,” she said.
Lleva said the suspects would be charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and illegal possession of explosive.
She said they were also facing swindling or estafa charges.
As of Saturday, three alleged victims from this city have already come forward and identified the suspects as the culprits behind three “budol-budol” incidents.
Lleva said that aside from the Rivera group, there were at least two more “budol-budol” gangs who have been engaging in the same activities here.