CHICAGO (jGLi) — When I put up a 100,000-peso (about US$25,000 at about 4 pesos to a U.S. dollar parity) bounty for information that could lead to the solution of the disappearance of Tempo newsman Tim Olivarez in the early 80’s, The Rizal Metro Manila Tri-Media Association (Tri-Media) received plenty of leads but mostly false alarms.
The reason – tipsters were only after the bounty, hoping that members of the group of journalists covering Rizal and Metro Manila would call their bluffs.
As president of a newsmen’s group, I was able to suggest to then President Marcos to help us raise the 100,000-peso bounty when our group was inducted in Malacanang. But for some reason, despite the press release issued by Malacanang that the bounty would be released thru the Marcos Foundation, I never saw the color of that money.
Thankfully, nobody came forward with reliable information on Tim’s disappearance, which could have put our organization in an embarrassing bind.
Out of that fund-raising effort, though, our club was able to raise 25,000 pesos (US$6,250), which I left behind when I immigrated to Chicago. When I returned to Manila some ten years later, my fellow officer, Eddie T. Suarez, correspondent of the Manila Bulletin, informed me that members of the club decided to split the bounty from among themselves, instead of keeping it as seed money of the club that could be used if another member disappears into thin air.
While I was in Chicago, I learned that our principal suspect, Bobby “Bungo” Ortega, former officer of the dreaded PC Metrocom Strike Force, had vehemently denied having a hand in Tim’s disappearance. Mr. Ortega, who would become Baguio City mayor, was alleged to be a close relative of President Marcos, which easily made him untouchable during martial law.
I could not even whisper to the ear of Mr. Marcos during our induction of Bobby’s involvement because I was afraid, I, too, would disappear like Tim.
BOBBY ORTEGA CALLED TEMPO
On the day, Tim Olivarez disappeared, Tim told me he was going to see Jose “Don Pepe” Oyson, a smuggling lord, that night. I told him I would go with him. But for some reason, I completely forgot all about our engagement that night. Olivarez would not be seen alive ever again. Two things would have happened if I kept Tim’s company: either Oyson would have been scared to kill us or both of us would have been killed.
Tim told me that when he broke a smuggling story carried out by Don Pepe, who was being protected by Bobby Ortega, Bobby called Tempo, looking for him. And it was popular crime reporter and columnist, Ruther D. Batuigas, Tim’s boss in Tempo, who happened to pick up Bobby’s call.
When the late Manila Bulletin columnist Lito Catapusan visited me in Chicago, he told me that his investigation showed that Tim’s body was dumped into the Manila Bay in Cavite with heavyweight and a string tied around his neck so his body would not float on the ocean.
With that brief experience of overseeing the fruitless search of Olivarez killers, I found out in Illinois and in other states, there is a nationwide non-profit organization called CrimeStopper, whose mission is to catch neighborhood criminals.
Backed by governors and state legislatures, this NGO (non-government organization) is able to raise funds, by allowing taxpayers to check-off a circle or a square that would give them option to donate certain amount to CrimeStopper.
CrimeStopper only offers a modest bounty of $1,000 for whoever could give authorities information that could lead to the arrest of a criminal.
SECRET IDENTITY OF THE TIPSTER IS THE KEY
And, I think, if CrimeStopper were adopted in the Philippines with Congress inserting an amendment into the Tax Code that could give Filipino taxpayers the ability to donate to the bounty to CrimeStopper, it would be a very effective means of catching neighborhood criminals by putting up a modest bounty of 50,000 pesos (US$1,190) per information on a criminal.
You know why? A small amount like the 30 pieces of silver Judas received for betraying Jesus will not create a feeding frenzy for people to actively look for criminals that would force the likes of Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes or General Jovito Palparan out of their hiding enclaves.
In this way, the criminals will be dropping their guards, which would make it easy for the police to catch them. And CrimeStopper has perfected its ability to assure the tipster of criminal information of their safety: when they call CrimeStopper that could be set up in provinces, cities and towns in the Philippines, the caller will be given a secret code or number or a PIN (Personal Identification Number), which only the caller would know. CrimeStopper does not know the identity of the caller.
If the criminal is arrested, the tipster can just call CrimeStopper and mention his code, number or PIN and the CrimeStopper could deposit the bounty or reward money to the bank or ATM account of the tipster. And the CrimeStopper staff are sworn to secrecy so as not blow the cover of the tipster. Just like the lottery jackpot winners, who are not publicly identified when they come to claim their prizes.
Of course, CrimeStopper will not stop the public from making huge donations, which would be perfect. For instance, victims can offer bigger bounties for the arrest of the likes of Reyes and Palparan thru the clandestine means of assuring maximum protection of the identity of the tipsters.
Press organizations in the Philippines, whose members are being annihilated, should now start the ball rolling of setting up CrimeStopper in the Philippines to stop the impunity of killing their own ranks. Good luck! (firstname.lastname@example.org)