By: Jaime Sinapit, InterAksyon.com November 27, 2013 5:51 PM
MANILA, Philippines – Over two dozen people, posing either as victims of typhoon Yolanda who evacuated from Eastern Visayas, or volunteers for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), have been arrested at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City over a one-week period, authorities said Wednesday, as they warned those planning to pull a similar stunt not to even think about it.
“They were being watched, and they didn’t know it. That’s why the gates of the base were closed,” said officials, who added that some fake volunteers yielded relief goods they had sneaked in among their belongings, just as they were trying to haul away their loot in a taxicab.
Those who posed as typhoon victims, on the other hand, were found out because their names, when checked, were not on the manifest of any of the mercy flights of the Philippine Air Force or any other foreign group that had helped bring evacuees from devastated Leyte and Samar to Metro Manila, for temporary shelter with relatives.
The base is located within PAF headquarters. According to PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol, the suspects were arrested in batches from November 16 to 23. “Our Air Force police implemented the arrest against these suspects in cooperation with DSWD personnel. They were posing as ether survivors or DSWD volunteers for the distribution of relief packs,” Okol said.
All suspects quickly admitted their offenses, and were brought to the Pasay police for the filing of qualified theft charges by the DSWD.
Some suspects, Okol said, turned out to be residents of nearby Merville Park while the others are from Pasay City.
Apparently the impostors’ modus is to enter the base premises in groups. “Kumbaga,nagdi-distribute naman sila pero nagtatago sila ng relief packs. Grupo-grupo ang mga ‘yan e. Tapos, aalis ‘yan by two or three [They go along with the real volunteers in distributing relief goods, but they tuck away relief packs for themselves. They come in groups, and then exit in twos or threes].”
Okol added: “Hindi nila alam na minamanmanan na namin sila kaya sinarado ‘yung gate tapos dinala na sila for investigation. Siguro 10 to 15 relief pack yung dala ng unang nahuli ‘They didn’t know we were on to them already. That’s why the gates were closed and they were brought in for investigation. The first suspects yielded 10 to 15 packs].”
However, Okol disputed reports that some suspects were using a vehicle with red plate—meaning, identified with the government.