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Senior Police Officer, Two Others Convicted in Kidnapping

July 28, 1995

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A former police officer who headed a presidential anti-kidnapping task force was convicted today of kidnapping a Taiwanese businessman and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Reynaldo Berroya, a former police colonel, was found guilty along with policeman Jose Vienes and businessman Francisco Mateo in the May 11, 1993 kidnapping of Chou Chi Yih.

``Let this be an example to others not to emulate,″ said Judge Oscar Pimentel of the Regional Trial Court of suburban Makati City.

Berroya’s lawyer said he will appeal.

Chou was abducted as he drove in suburban Paranaque. The kidnappers contacted his family and arranged that a $431,300 ransom be paid through a bank in Hong Kong. Chou was released unharmed May 18.

The court ordered those convicted to return the ransom and pay the victim damages of $117,600 along with $15,600 in lawyers’ fees.

The Philippines has no jury system; judges issue verdicts and decide sentences.

More than 100 wealthy Chinese-Filipinos have been victims of a wave of kidnappings that began in 1991. Many victims refused to cooperate with authorities because they believed corrupt police and soldiers were involved in kidnapping syndicates.

When President Fidel Ramos took office in 1992, he appointed Vice President Joseph Estrada to head the Anti-Crime Commission. Estrada created various task forces, including the anti-kidnapping group, which was headed by Berroya, a friend.

Another task group, headed by police Brig. Gen. Panfilo Lacson, discovered Berroya was involved in the Chou kidnapping. Lacson resigned from his post recently after he was charged in the summary execution of 11 members of bank robbery gang.

Three people _ an air force colonel, a former regional police commander and Mateo’s wife, Lavinia _ were acquitted in Chou’s kidnapping because of insufficient evidence.

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