By Ria Fernandez
The suspected mastermind in the kidnapping of a Letran student in August pleaded not guilty during his arraignment before the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 19 on Wednesday.
Jhulius Atabay was charged with kidnapping for ransom and serious illegal detention after he was identified as the leader in the abduction of Dhenzel Gomez, his classmate.
Atabay and Gomez were together waiting for a bus ride near the Light Rail Transit (LRT)-1 Central Station when a group of students, including Ferdinand dela Vega Jr., Ralph Emmanuel Camaya, and Justine Mahipus, allegedly took them by force in the evening of August 1.
Later on, Atabay was released and served as middleman during ransom negotiations with the victim’s family. The ransom demand reached P30 million.
On August 6, Gomez was rescued by the members of the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) inside a small room at 285 Naval Street, Barangay 132 in Balut, Tondo, Manila.