By Aaron B. Recuenco
Police have arrested 33 persons, including a Chinese businesswoman, for allegedly hoarding face masks and other medical supplies and reselling them at higher prices to take advantage of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
Maj. Gen. Jose Napoleon Coronel, director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said the series of operations in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon resulted in the confiscation of almost P13 million worth of face masks and other medical supplies.
“In a span of 48 hours (since March 20), the CIDG conducted a total of 13 police operations resulting in the arrest of 33 individuals including four members of a criminal gang and the confiscation of alcohols, hand sanitizers, and face masks,” said Coronel.
At around 5 p.m. on Friday, CIDG operatives arrested Ernel Vincent Estilo, Nelgielyn Indong, Girlie Bonifacio, Charles Cabulao, Rsalito Manalo, Juan Fidel Talag, Jane Aguilar, and Christian Alfred Gonzales in an entrapmment in Tondo, Manila.
Seized from them were 19 bubble wrapped boxes of face masks worth P620,000, 20 brown boxes, marked money, and two vans. The suspects were selling face masks at P2,500 per box.
Businessman Michael Bravo, on the other hand, was arrested on the same day after allegedly selling overpriced alcohols and face masks in front of North Star Mall in Barangay Alibagu in Iligan City, Isabela.
Police seized 20 bottles of hand sanitizers, 31 bottles of ethyl alcohol (500ml) being sold at Php300.00 each, 38 disposable N95 protective masks being sold at Php150.00 each, and boodle and marked money.
Three more persons were collared in Olongapo City, Tarlac and Bataan on Friday over the same modus operandi, namely, Jimmel Jimenez, who yielded 90 bottles of alcohol; Mark Kevin de Guzman, who was in possession of three boxes of alcohol with 36 bottles each; and Jennifer Coronel, who had 52 bottles of alcohol.
“They were selling overpriced alcohol. They were all arrested during separate entrapment operations,” said Coronel.
On Saturday, 41-year old Archie Metiam was arrested for selling overpriced hand sanitizers in Caloocan City; while Percy Datoy, Yobryte Unabia, Jerome Quiachon and Daniel Casino were arrested for selling overpriced alcohol in Cagayan de Oro City.
In Cabanatuan City, four members of a syndicate named Tetano Group were nabbed hoarding, profiteering, selling and refilling of isopropyl alcohol. They were identified as Bener Navarrete, Jonathan Segura, Edgardo Corpuz and Johnray Serrano.
Also in Cagayan de Oto City, Gretchen Caare and Rhocile Lee Romblon-Fournier were arrested for reselling the alcohol and hand sanitizers they allegedly hoarded for a higher price.
Several more were arrested in Manila and Quezon City for the same offense. They were identified as Bernadine Cruz, Ivy Austria, Monina Gallardo, Miko Santiso, Buenaventura Raman and Roselie de Guzman.
In Pasay City, Caroline Cheng Lee, Wang Yongyi and Bernadette Santos were collared for allegedly selling overpriced surgical or disposable face masks online.
Seized from them were were 5,110 packs or boxes of surgical or disposable face masks with an overall estimated value of P8.7 million.
Violations of Republic Act 7581 (Price Act) as amended by RA 10623 and RA 7394 (Consumer Act of the Philippines) all in relation to RA 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012), Art 14 of the RPC (Aggravating Circumstances), DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) Memorandum Circular# 20-07 (Anti-Hoarding and Anti-Panic Buying), and Proclamation No. 922 will be filed against the arrested persons through inquest proceedings.
The Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield earlier warned to run after hoarders of essential products needed to protect people from COVID-19.