With the revelations, it appears the plot has thickened on the saga that has shown how intricate and well-planned the swindling that hit several city business establishments.
Investigators are now looking into a well-organized crime syndicate which was the one behind the large-scale scam that victimized at least 26 businesses here involving at least P2 million worth of stolen goods.
The revelation came on Tuesday during the joint committee hearing of Bohol’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan Committee on Peace and Order and Public Safety and Trade and Industry at the old Capitol complex.
Another idea floated was about the scammers getting help from locals in eyeing potential targets and how to exploit the gaps to launch their nefarious schemes.
Instant complaints forestafa, through the use of bouncing checks, were filed at the fiscal’s office in Tagbilaran City on November 10.
Aside from Feliza other respondents are Merryjane Torralba, Lia Domingo, Ferrer Ramsi Torres, John Michael, and two others only named Jane and John Does.
Representatives from various sectors, including the bank which instruments were allegedly involved in the grand heist attended with another bank where the suspects applied for a car loan, but the vehicle was carted away.
A gang headed by a woman purportedly identified as one Feliza Torralba victimized several businesses carting various items from computer products, consumer good, and other various items.
It was reported the Provincial Legal Office is looking for other charges to file other than estafa to ensure the suspects will not be able to post bail in the eventthe authorities arrest them.
Board Member Abeleon Damalerio noted the gang was high-organized and planned the heist perfectly based on the narration of those who attended the joint committee meeting.
Damalerio said the gang was able to exploit the gaps in the government regulations and procedure in pulling the heist.
Board Member Ricky Masamayor, who presided the committee hearing, said another round of hearings wouldbe conducted, next time including fixtures from the Philippine Ports Authority and other government agencies to shed light on the matter.
Tagbilaran was shocked a couple of weeks ago following the news of a gang carting away a sizeable amount of goods and taking these with them to Mindanao by taking a boat in Jagna town and docking in Nasipit.
Police are now hot on the trail of the suspects, known to haveescapedto Mindanao.
LOCALS MAY HAVE HELPED SUSPECTS
A provincial board member believes there could be local contacts who may have helped the suspects carry out their criminal activities.
Masamayor said it would be hard for the suspects to flourish here without local help to cart away at least P2 million worth of good from various businesses here.
A local associate, said Masamayor, may have given critical information to the suspects about establishments and to secure the needed documents, which the suspects used in their scam activities.
With the insider knowledge, it was easier for the group of suspects to unleash their nefarious activities.
Masamayor gave the example of Joselito Meloria who was the guide of the Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists who entered Bohol back in April. Meloria’s knowledge of the locals and the terrain gave confidence to the terrorists to enter Bohol.
The local help given to the Abu Sayyaf gave them some advantage, but the cooperation of the local residents helped the military to gain the upper hand and finally neutralize the terrorists in just a month.
Natividad, based on some reports, say the local police are looking for the possibility the group had a local cohort who may have helped not just in giving information but helped the suspects in their daring escape after their cover was blown.
All angles are now being considered including the ones that might have helped the suspects gain access to transportation or allegedly aided them to escape the pursuing police officers.
HOW ABOUT THE BUSINESS PERMIT?
The suspects got a business permit issued on October 9. They got a new business permit, the Department of Trade and Industry registration was obtained on October 4.
The details of the BIR registration cannot be obtained due to statutory limitations. The local office awaits the authority from the regional office regarding the data that can be revealedabout the investigation of the swindling incident.
Samuel Belderol, head of the business permit and licensing office in the city, said when the suspects applied for a business permit, they had complete papers to enable the processing.
He said the barangays since the basic requirement of the securing of the business permit is a barangay clearance. The barangay is privy to all who are applying for a business permit.
Belderol said after securing the permit, fire safety and sanitary inspections should ensue.
He said the joint inspection team went to the area and was accosted for non- posting of the business permit, which is mandated by law.
Belderol said he learned later the permit issued by the city was being used by the suspects to convince their would-be victims.
FELIZA, OR IS SHE?
Doubts began to surface after figuring out the possibility the suspects may have used fictitious identities to pull off the heist.
A source by the Tribune said it is highly possible for the suspects to use fictitious names since no one will dare to compromise their real identity to commit a crime.
The possibility the real identity of the suspect may not be what we knew all along came about when the PhilHealth official revealed the number in the ID presented by the suspect does not match with the name printed on the card.
The card had the name of Feliza Torralba, but the number belonged to another person located in Batangas.
The Philhealth officer declined to reveal the identity of the real owner of the number.
Aside from swindling, it is possible the suspects may be facing falsification of documents charges if proven.
With the revelation, it is possible all other documents used by the suspects to identify themselves may also fake.
Bureau of Internal Revenue district director Tohammie Yahya refused to confirm whether the Tax Identification Number is issued to the suspect due to the restrictions of the National Internal Revenue Code and the Data Privacy Act.
He, however, said the one that signed the Certificate of Registration used by the suspects and was issuedonJuly 2, 2015,was never employed in the revenue district.
Yayha said he never encountered such name who has been an employee of the BIR since he was the assistant district director of the local BIR back in 2015. The signatory was a certain Jose Edimar Lontok, and Yahya said no such person was employed in the BIR back in 2015 until now.
One of those victimized, Analyn Bermoy Antasuda, the owner of the house which the suspects rented in Dauis described the so-called Feliza as a petite lady.
Antasuda said Feliza spoke in mixed Filipino and Visayan when she was doing some dealings.
Feliza was described to be a smooth talker and with very strong convincing skills.
Antasuda said she asked how Feliza is related to the Torralba’s of Tagbilaran. Feliza said she doesn’t know how she is related since she grew up in Manila.
Damalerio said the suspects were too cunning to use a familiar surname since if they used any other surname the impact may have been less intense, and they may not have pulled the caper that easy.
One of the banks caught in the maelstrom said due to legal limitations, providing CCTV footage to the authorities will depend on approvals and specifics.
Ma. Elena Deligro of Security Bank who appeared before the SP on Tuesday said the bank could provide footage to the authorities as long there is provision for the exact time and date.
Banks can release CCTV footage if there is an order from a competent court.
Deligro said she couldnot categorically confirm whether Torralba and her cohorts were depositors or clients of the bank due to legal restriction of the Bank Secrecy Law.
The manager was reluctant to give additional information about the alleged accounts of the suspects, which was to the dismay of the board members in attendance.
The board members had to resort to asking general questions related to the opening of the bank account and proper banking procedures.
CHATTO ASKS BATO’S HELP
Chatto sought the help of Dir. Gen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa in pinning down the suspects of what could be the biggest heist in Tagbilaran in years.
The governor conveyed his concern to the PNP chief during the recent ASEAN gala dinner in Manila.
Chatto has been concerned over the incident and wants the top police chief to consider the matter soonest.
Reports from the Effective Developmental Communication Unit of the Capitol said De la Rosa directed PNP Highway Patrol Group to search Mindanao for the missing vehicles, parts of the syndicate’s swindling loot from Bohol, and track down the suspects.
The PNP chief earlier ordered the same to Central Visayas Police Regional Director Jose Mario Espino.
Chatto forwarded to De la Rosa updates of the swindling case from the PNP-Bohol.
Bohol PNP Chief Felipe Natividad has kept coordinating with the police in the CARAGA Region and other areas in Mindanao. (Dave S. Albarado)