ZAMBOANGA CITY: AROUND 30 heavily armed men on Friday held hostage 12 people believed to be connected and had worked for suspected pyramid scam operator Jacob “Jojo” Rasuman, in Lanao del Sur.
Police and military officials said the gunmen, led by Hadji Esmail, first abducted a 60-year school supervisor Intan Rohaida Cornell Maunte, in the village of Linuk in Marantao town.
Esmail and his group were reportedly looking for Maunte’s son, Jose, whom they claimed was used by Rasuman who managed to dupe residents of their province by as much P1.2 billion through non-existent investment scam.
Rasuman and his wife were subsequently arrested one after the other and are now detained at the National Bureau of Investigation facing large-scale estafa charges.
After taking the old woman, the group went to nearby Piagapo town, where they took 11 more members of the Maunte clan, including her daughter, Salma Maunte, and used them as shield against pursuing policemen.
Authorities said Esmail eventually freed all hostages after local politicians negotiated for the safe release of the captives – Azis Cornell, Saljana Maunte, Harico Maunte, Bebikil Maunte, Bonsokoy Maunte, Laine Maunte, Jose’s wife; Albap Maunte, Alkap Maunte, Asma Maunte and Al-al Maunte.
Rasuman was said to have employed several people in the province who convinced the victims to invest on his Ponzi scheme.
Esmail was allegedly demanding payments from the victims since Jose was reportedly among those who worked for Rasuman prior to his arrest.
Troops from the 51st Infantry Battalion deployed in the province were alerted to monitor the situation in the area.
Last year, armed civilians also seized relatives of Rasuman and even the families of those who worked for him to force them to pay back their investments.
Rasuman, claimed he also invested some of his collections to a company called Aman Futures headed by Malaysian businessman Manuel Amalilio, who offered as much as 50% interest in just two weeks.
Amalilio turned out to be a swindler, who collected over P12 billion from many people in southern Philippines. He fled to Malaysia where he was arrested in January 2013 on immigration charges.