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News, Peace & Order

A child’s ‘kidnapping’ and PH justice system

By: Solita Collas-Monsod
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Friday, August 31st, 2012. The brouhaha over the alleged kidnapping of the granddaughter of Cecilia Seares Luna, a “queenpin” of Abra, has once again exposed the soft underbelly of the Philippine justice system.The background: Per official records, Rochelle Seares Luna (occupation: homemaker; education years completed: 16), and Anthony Bernard Ricks (occupation: manager, mortgage services industry; education years completed: 20) were married on Nov. 9, 2004.

 They have one child: Ashley Nicole Luna, born Oct. 16, 2004, in Santa Ana, California. It is not clear when Rochelle and Anthony were divorced. And, if Anthony is to be believed, he was given sole legal and physical custody of Ashley. His statement seems to be validated by a news report that Cecilia Luna told journalists that he “managed to get custody of Nicole since Rochelle was studying in England.”

 In 2010, Rochelle and Cecilia Luna obtained written permission from Anthony Ricks to take Ashley to the Philippines, for a two-month period. The child was to be returned to her father by Aug. 10, 2010. But Ashley was never returned to her father. Again, news reports quote Cecilia Luna (after the “kidnapping”) as saying that the child did not want to go back to the United States, that the child had been sleeping on the floor of her father’s room in a four-room house where the other three rooms were rented to nonfamily members, and that Cecilia Luna was afraid that Ashley might be abused by one of the tenants, since she was mostly left to herself.

 Last Tuesday morning, Anthony Ricks, in a car driven by Guillermo Jorge Garcia, “fetched” Ashley from her school in BF Homes, Quezon City, and then transferred to another car, leaving Garcia alone in the first car. Garcia’s car was stopped by barangay officials. Garcia was thereafter detained, although the US Embassy had already stated that Anthony Ricks and his daughter Ashley were in the embassy. In effect, no kidnapping took place, least of all by Garcia.

 It has since been determined that Ashley left the country for the United States on Tuesday evening in the company of two foreigners, although the flight manifest did not contain the name of Anthony Ricks.

 But Anthony Ricks is indeed back in the United States, e-mailing from Concordia University, Wisconsin, the following (unedited): “My name is Anthony Ricks. I am Ashley father and she is safe and secure in the USA!  I have sole legal and physical custody of Ashley Nichole Ricks. The Seares family is not being honest with there statement. I have been trying to get Ashley back to the states but I was ignored by the Luna family for a year and a half. Since I got no response I had to take matters into my own hands. Ashley was originally granted a summer vacation trip to Manila in 2010 I signed an affidavit with specific dates for Ashley to return. The Seares family with the non Hague treaty had a goal to keep Ashley in the Philippines and have no contact with me. Mr. Garcia was only trying to reunite a father with his daughter who has legal and sole custody.  I am hear to set the record straight.”

 Now for the Philippine justice system and its flaws as highlighted by this incident.

 First, there is the fact that Guillermo Jorge Garcia claims to have been mauled, first by Robert Seares, Ashley’s uncle and an Abra mayor, and then allegedly by the barangay captain and some tanod (guards). Backing this claim is the medico-legal certificate from the Quezon City General Hospital, signed by one Dr. Bercado, surgeon on duty, who reported “multiple abrasion L anterior chest area at level of 2nd-6th rib; contusion haematoma 3x3cm R anterior chest area at level of 3rd to 5th rib; multiple abrasion mid axillary line to mid clavicular line R; multiple abrasion (indecipherable) area.” So much for the community pillar of our justice system. By the way, this seems to have been totally overlooked by the news media.

 Garcia was arrested by the Quezon City police, who turned him over to the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) in Camp Crame. Here’s one for the good guys: The AKG report essentially said that there was no kidnapping, because the child, per information received from the US Embassy, was at that moment in the embassy with her father. The AKG then returned Garcia to the Quezon City Police Department’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) for “appropriate action.”

 Per the Garcia family, one Rogelio Mercado, MPA, head of the CIDU, said that of course there was no kidnapping, and that he would cut his finger if Garcia were so charged. And then he signed a letter to the Quezon City Prosecutor, referring a case of “kidnapping and serious illegal detention” against Garcia and Ricks and “John and Jane Doe.” He later allegedly explained (presumably in confidence) that he had to do that because a couple of Quezon City prosecutors were related to the Seares-Lunas. So much for law enforcement as a pillar of the justice system.

 In the inquest, the Garcia lawyers feared the worst—the assistant city prosecutor in charge seemed to be totally uninterested in the Garcia side of the story and detained him at Camp Karingal. But here is another one for the good guys: Quezon City Chief Prosecutor Donald Lee wasn’t having any of that. Garcia was released on Thursday night.

 But the underlying reason why kidnapping charges were filed in the first place was the fact that Cecilia Luna had been awarded custody of Ashley by Abra Regional Trial Court Judge Corpus Alzate—solely on the unverified testimony of Luna that the parents had turned over the care of Ashley to her. So much for the courts as a pillar of the justice system.
Related Storie: American, 4 others face kidnap raps in QC


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43 thoughts on “A child’s ‘kidnapping’ and PH justice system

  1. As one blogger of this site said that this is a family matter only for them to settle. But let us look into the bigger picture of the story. That the justice system in ABRA is really rotten. First, may I be clarified: Judge Corpus Alzate issued custody order to the Luna in the absence of Anthony Ricks? ONLY IN ABRA, ONLY IN THE PHILIPPINES! Sa pagkakaalam ko dapat present ang both parties in settling disputes. Why? Because Judge Alzate doesn’t know the real essence of justice or is it because he is a monkey puppet of the Luna? JUST ASKING CLARIFICATION FOLKS! And to the family: This issue just proves that small family matters cannot be solved among themselves. It’s all about money again! EXTORTION as mentioned by Anthony Ricks? Using Ashley Ricks to obtain large amount of money in DOLLARS? For me this is simple: Solve family matters within yourselves, its not all money that counts but the solidarity of a family. Family is the foundation of the society, how can you claim to govern a bigger community if even the simplest conflict in your family cannot be resolved? And to the Abra Justice system, it’s about time you rescue your reputations….that if you value your integrity as persons/professionals. TO THE JUDGE: The people of Abra trust you, do not disappoint them by just clinging yourself to one family/clan in the province. Hindi lang Luna ang tao sa Abra….PERA ng mamamayan ang sinasahod ninyo. But then again this is a family matter. But let me put it this way: GOOD GOVERNANCE starts AT HOME.

    Posted by BARANGABANG | August 31, 2012, 6:23 pm
  2. support FOI by tanada so that the good governance we ere aiming for a long time will be achieved.

    Posted by FOI, tanada | September 1, 2012, 2:58 am
  3. im thinking a politician here in abra who does not have conflict within their family? you are right, abra is not govern the way it should be. good governace starts at home.

    Posted by jack rubi | September 1, 2012, 6:21 am
  4. parang true to life movie ang nangyari dito. I think the U.S. sided with Mr. Ricks knowing that he has the legal custody of the child. There’s nothing Luna or even the Philippine government can do about this.

    Posted by Lawyer | September 1, 2012, 9:17 pm
  5. The judge must have needed money once again to play the birds! Nia makunam, Judge – manoman iti siningirmon kenni Cesy Luna? Naibus man ngata tay para tadi mon nia?

    Posted by Jefe de Justicia | September 2, 2012, 2:15 am
  6. im one of those many abrenians who hated the lunas but we have to raise the issue here tama naman ung isang blogger that this is a family matter and a lot of issues to be dicussed. this is very timely because our neighbor country is keep on bullying us for the reason that we dont have the means to suppress them. my point here is d kaya naging arrogante at mayabang tong foreigner and he disregareded the legal remedy aplicable to our country by taking up his own daughter in a very disturbing circumtances. hinde kaya binabalewala nila ung court order sa atin kaht ano pa yan pano kinuha as long there is court desisyon unless may nakakataas na hukuman ngsasabe na null ung order e dapat irespesto. minamaliit tau mga banyaga sa sarili nating bayan.

    Posted by jack | September 2, 2012, 1:27 pm
    • nonsense Jack. what legal remedy you are talking abount? justice is bought and the court order was with a price tag… do not feel so inferior better yet take the facts as it is…. i do not hate the Lunas… I hate their dispositions and that is for a fact.

      Posted by kumaw | September 2, 2012, 11:09 pm
  7. Jack, had you read the circumstances as outlined in the papers – you can sympathize with the father. If I was in a similar position and my daughter, who I love dearly, is put in a tenable position. I will move heaven & earth to take her back! Call me arrogant or whatever, I am taking my daughter back!

    You said “in a very disturbing circumtances. hinde kaya binabalewala nila ung court order sa atin kaht ano pa yan pano kinuha as long there is court desisyon” Let me tell you something, number one, the child is an AMERICAN CITIZEN and a minor – if you think the USA is going to sit aside and watch their own forcibly kept away from his American legal guardian – no court in the ANY country matters – specially with that 2 bit Judge & fiscal you have in Abra! Besides, with him in the bench, justice has a monetary price!

    Posted by Jefe | September 2, 2012, 5:58 pm
  8. JEFE: BRIGHT idea bro! Justice in Abra remains to be elusive with the judges and fiscals in the RTC, money speaks.

    Posted by BARANGABANG | September 2, 2012, 7:44 pm
    • Nothing would please me more than to hear CJ Sereno initiating an investigation on the crooked RTC Judge & Fiscal in Abra!! Why won’t the people of Abra instead file a complaint at the DOJ to investigate these bastards instead of being taken advantage and for granted?

      Posted by Jefe | September 3, 2012, 12:21 am
  9. Make the complain JEFE and we will sign. Agpitngga metten ti pannakairurumen dagiti marigirigat nga Abrenio… Justice is never been fair …Money dictates.

    Posted by Bullalayaw | September 3, 2012, 1:05 am
    • Starting the complaint would be beyond my realm of responsibility! I am not even a Filipino citizen – but instead a very loyal Abrenian at heart & soul to say the least! Folks in Abra, who reside in Abra, who love Abra, who cares about Abra should take matter into their own – I can only suggest the process! File the complaint with the DOJ or Supreme Court against the crooked judge & fiscal! This is a good time to do it as CJ Sereno is in the process of making her mark!!

      Posted by Jefe | September 3, 2012, 2:48 pm
  10. so you heard start initiating the complaint against the judge you are referring with. il support you. isnt it we have a justice of the supreme from abra? il sure he will help us if we only do our share to rid out hoodlum in robes

    Posted by jack | September 3, 2012, 2:27 am
  11. the incident shows how the US treat their so called allies. i qoute “Let me tell you something, number one, the child is an AMERICAN CITIZEN and a minor – if you think the USA is going to sit aside and watch their own forcibly kept away from his American legal guardian – no court in the ANY country matters – ” you see how big predatory State like US seeking to absorb another country would always try to enforce their will in the targeted weak State. am i patriot?

    Posted by jack rubi | September 3, 2012, 2:56 am
    • All I can say, the United States will irrevocably & unconditionally protect the interest of its citizens. No ifs or buts – NO ONE LEFT BEHIND! You’d be glad if your were in Mr. Ricks shoes. Would you like to have your kid held hostage in another country? Don’t think so, if you love your child! BTW, I don’t think you should worry about the US absorbing your weaker country inasmuch as a majority of the Filipino population would much prefer if the Philippines was added as another state of the US of A. It would be a welcome act by the USA! If I were you, I’d worry more about China who is starting to gradually encroach within the territory of the Philippines! And who do you call for help? You don’t really need me to answer that would you? It’s elementary my dear, Jack! PEACE!

      Posted by Jefe | September 3, 2012, 2:21 pm
      • at least you know how US flexes their muscles on a weak state like ours to promote their interest . US intercession with our looming conflict with china will make our country a ground zero. Great military strategists like Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu both recommended that a country shouldn’t fight a war it cannot win. war is simply not an option.Although the Philippines is now right smack in the middle of this superpower game; most of our countrymen like you are unaware about the real possibility of the country being the target of a nuke attack in the event the worst case scenario plays out. to conceal their real agenda of your adopted land, It uses the official cover of helping Filipinos fight terrorism, train Filipino troops, promote development and so forth. Indeed, they are doing that but they’re here in order to promote their own national interests. again, the ‘kidnapping’ incident shows a US citizen displays of arrogance in dealing a simple problem. puede naman nya kunin what is due to him but he should follow the process we have in the Philippines sabe mo nga heaven and earth US will help him definitely the present set up of PHL justice sytem will be favorable to him because of the intercession of his govt. a lot of cases involving american here like rape but the suspect never put into phil jail. this is a classic example if only he followed the sytem here. im a filipino and i will never denouce my citizenship.

        Posted by jack rubi | September 5, 2012, 6:47 am
  12. pardon me jepe pero d ako naniniwala sa lahat ng binabasa ko especially sa mga ganitong issue kc im more interested the story behind the issue.

    Posted by jack | September 3, 2012, 3:14 am
    • Ano ang STORY behind the issue? Rumors? Or investigative reporting made by a reputable news organs? I would like to think that I have to rely over what I read in the papers – of course, I’ll take it with a grain of salt!

      Posted by Jefe | September 3, 2012, 2:25 pm
  13. di ako naniniwala sa lahat ng nababasa ko jefe. you have information gap if you rely over what you have read in the papers. there are journalist uses his space to accommodate a publicist’s agenda. so with columnists who use their space to do PR (Public Relations) work thereby becoming the publicist themselves. In other words, the journalist or columnist who doubles as a publicist becomes a pimp for the system that nourishes Harlot Politics Some people can’t tell the difference between news and an opinion piece. Even worse, news recipients find it very hard to distinguish which opinion pieces are ‘propaganda’ materials from half truths or outright lies spun by publicists.

    Posted by jack | September 5, 2012, 7:05 am
    • correction to my first sentence: hinde lahat ng nababasa ko ay pinapaniwalaan ko. tnx.

      Posted by jack | September 5, 2012, 7:41 am
      • Like I said, I have to rely on what I read on the papers but I take it with a grain of salt, Jack. It is what we see in black & white, We live in a society where the dissemination of news come from reporters who I expect (I would presume) to report events the way they see it so people may know – not on rumors or innuendos! I think we are smart enough to make a differentiation from those that are reporting real news and those who are not. Ergo, we will have to base our discussions on that scenario. Fair enough?

        Inasmuch as we have no access what goes on behind closed doors. It appears that you may have heard otherwise. Care to share some “unofficial” version of events? Something more like coming from the horse’s mouth? Some items that may enlighten us and make these discussions a little bit livelier?

        Posted by Jefe | September 6, 2012, 2:14 am
  14. you know why im very mad to the the father of the allege victim of kidnapping jefe? he displayed arrogance by taking up his daughter in a disturbing manner thus; a lot of offices have been dragged into his mess like the PNP, BI, and the school. the worst thing was the media mileage by the LUNAs.

    Posted by jack | September 5, 2012, 7:26 am
    • Jack,you are being naive.If I am the father why prolong the process of taking back my daughter.The Lunas’ does not deserve the niceties of the process with what they did.I for one, would not take a chance on the Philippine courts to decide.It will just drag for a long time which will be a disadvantage for the father.

      Just like Jefe said, the child in question is a US citizen and a minor.

      Posted by meoff | September 5, 2012, 9:45 am
  15. ok meoff forget about the LUNAs lets put the incident in the US or foreign land assuming you were the father and a filipino will you replicate what the father did? my point is if tau nasa luGAR nila e we follow their sytem bakit di nila magawa dito meaning they dont treat as equal to them. MGPAKATOTOO KA MEOFF.

    Posted by jack rubi | September 5, 2012, 9:56 am
    • Jack, be real.Justice system in the US and Pinas are like apples and oranges.Equality?Fairness? Act respectably so you can be respected and be treated as equals.

      Do you have children? As a father, who cares by what means I use to get my daughter especially if I have legal custody.

      Posted by meoff | September 5, 2012, 10:54 am
      • “I rest my case your honor!” Ooooops, Tay met RTC judge diay Abra gayyam! “mano bayadko, judge??”

        Posted by Jefe | September 6, 2012, 1:52 am
      • I must say everything ended in a good note favoring the legal guardian of the child as it should have been. As far as I am concerned, this case is over. Not that I do not agree that it could have been settled in a more diplomatic manner as you suggested, Jack. But I also understand where the father is coming from – he is aware of who he is going against and he did what he had to do and what he came for in the Philippines, TO BRING HOME HIS DAUGHTER WHERE SHE BELONGS – WITH HIS FATHER AND THE US OF A!

        It has been a good discussion between us. Thank you for the privilege, Jack. You’re a decent man! Peace!

        Posted by Jefe | September 6, 2012, 2:31 pm
      • ok do it what the father did in the foreign land anyway there is binay to help you back in the Phils.

        Posted by jack rubi | September 7, 2012, 3:02 am
      • im always on the side of the real truth and the juridical truth depending on the issue.

        Posted by jack rubi | September 7, 2012, 6:46 am
      • meoff, as you said “Jack, be real.Justice system in the US and Pinas are like apples and oranges.Equality?Fairness? Act respectably so you can be respected and be treated as equals” yes for sure we have a different justice sytem from US but Let’s not be the first to put our country down.

        Posted by jack rubi | September 7, 2012, 8:12 am
  16. dont worry jefe all the story behind the closed doors are validated but not for public view.

    Posted by jack rubi | September 7, 2012, 2:47 am
  17. where is the mother in all of this? sad case anyway you look at it. at the center of this is a child. like someone said earlier. how Anthony went about it was legally wrong. but taking matters into his own hands, it seemed like he would do anything to get his daughter back. question to all the fathers out there. would you do the same?

    Posted by Corrs | September 7, 2012, 3:13 pm
    • Ever watch that movie TAKEN, CORRS? If not, I suggest you rent & watch the movie and you will have an idea what MOST men would fantasize act if someone took their child. I agree it’s just a movie but…………

      Posted by Jefe | September 8, 2012, 6:49 am
      • is there a connection with the incident to the movie “taken” which until now i can not get over to acquire the skills and determination the father had. i have a copy of its DVD( original) for my collection and at the same time for reference. it is just a movie but it exposed the real truth in the organized crime world. the kidnapping in the Movie Taken 1, Kim (daughter) has probably been taken by an Albanian human trafficking ring, and that, according to statistics, if Kim is not rescued within four days, she would likely never be found.. in the incident of our discussion is there an imminent threat of the daughter to the LUNAs?

        Posted by jack rubi | September 8, 2012, 7:35 am
  18. Not at all an analogy, Jack Rubi – but what I posted was in response CORRS’ hypothetical question not necessarily to equate the TAKEN situation to that of the Luna’s & Ricks’. That would be like comparing kaimitos and karmays! 🙂 🙂

    Posted by Jefe | September 8, 2012, 11:44 am
  19. ok see you in another topic to be posted by syop

    Posted by jack rubi | September 8, 2012, 12:00 pm
  20. Thanks for the movie referral jefe. In answer to jacks question, I can’t think of a serious threat to the daughter safety wise. They did send her to a good school. However when the Luna family took the daughter away and didn’t return her, you have to wonder what Anthony ricks was thinking. Coming to a different country and taken on the lunas. I don’t know about you that takes guts to do.

    Posted by Corrs | September 8, 2012, 2:28 pm
  21. believe me corrs i understand the plight of mr ricks if he had done all the remedies he had. in this conflict with a filipino family against a us citizen supported by documents that he was given the legal custody of the child who do you think the LLAmado? i can do what mr ricks even farther if im on the side of “dehado” i can able to do a desperate move against my enemies like what the actor did in the movie TAKEN after he realized, that his former former field agent colleague and old friend who works in a desk job in enforcement dept of paris is unhelpfull. my point is that our laws are uniformly applied to foreigners and Filipinos alike.

    Posted by jack rubi | September 9, 2012, 2:33 am
  22. and pls dont question my guts. you dont know what i have been through.

    Posted by jack rubi | September 9, 2012, 2:50 am
  23. thanks Jack, BTW, that last sentence wasn’t meant as you not having guts. it was meant to be a general statement even though it was just worded that way.

    Posted by Corrs | September 9, 2012, 10:02 pm
  24. Thank you, this is a issue which is close to my heart.
    Is there any way I can talk with you? My name’s Lucretia Littlefield and I’d get into this more deeply.

    Posted by 39757 | May 11, 2013, 11:22 am

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