We opened our church to our neighborhood that Wednesday night. We were in awe and rejoicing at the turn out of the attendance. Little did we know that the enemy was going for a counter-attack, because we were robbed of items amounting to 700k the morning after The Holy Spirit prodded me that early morning as I sensed some negative movements around the house. Initially, I just thought our houseboy Eric decided to leave by escaping that early morning. I only verified in the latter hours that my Nikon D810 Camera, Nikon 24-70 f2.8, and Nikon 14-24 f2.8 lens were all gone plus 2 projectors and my Ikelite underwater casing for D7000 with 2 Inon Flashes. We fell silent as we were trying to put the pieces of the story together. We had no leads because they even shut down our CCTV. The incident was reported to the police but we didn’t know where to find the culprit.
We prayed and cried out for justice to the Lord. After a few days, the Lord was leading us to more information. We found out that days prior to the incident, an ex-house boy visited us twice and even slept in the helpers quarters without us knowing. His girl friend (who was our ex-yaya) has been texting Monique, always asking how we are and our whereabouts. With this, Monique became suspicious and we made them possible suspects. It made sense because our house boy was the only one who knew how to turn off the CCTV and knew which equipment costed the most.
Good thing the barangay had CCTV around our street. The truth came to life as Onnie reviewed the video. Around 4am, we saw our ex-boy walk out from our house with a backpack. 5 minutes later, Eric the house boy left with a backpack and 2 more big bags. The two met at the corner street and they hurriedly left together. This was both good and bad news for us. Good because we have a clear picture of who and how they stole the items but sad because these were people we trusted especially our ex-houseboy. We helped him many times when he was in need and we counseled him, shared Jesus to him and He even got baptized in our retreat. With this we updated our blotters & police reports at the WPD.
The police was telling us that our case is a lapse case so its more difficult to pin down the thieves, but God knows in our heart that we are crying out for justice. We did not decide to take matters into our hands, but God was the one making the moves on our behalf. The girl friend of our ex-boy heard that she was added as a suspect in the blotter and wanted to clear her name. She went to our house immediately. This was God’s divine appointment.
She confronted our ex-house boy and to her shock , he confessed to the crime. We explained to her that we wanted the items back and that if they would all cooperate we will be merciful and not exercise the full justice of the law. She agrees to point us to him. So now, all we needed to do was to get police assistance.
Upon going to the WPD, they asked us for so many things — official receipt, etc. It was as if they didn’t want to move and just kept on telling us all we can do is file charges because its been more than 72 hours since the time the crime happened. They also didn’t see the urgency of the situation and acted so slow. One of our contacts even suggested that we can lie and say the crime happened only today so we can just immediately arrest the suspect. However, I did not lose faith in God’s sovereignty and did not compromise my values.
So I asked Alex Ruelo to get help from our client from PNP (Col Rasco & Gen Magalong) who referred us to the Southern Police District CIDG group. They immediately responded and at 10pm we were ready to move. Prior to this, we picked up the suspect’s mom who pointed us to where he lived. We knocked at the door of his house but no one was answering. Captain Reyes recommended at 130am that we all go home and come back by 6am because “it is hard to wake up someone who is not asleep,” meaning, he was sure the suspect was inside but he knew we were there to arrest him so he didn’t want to open up. His mother agrees and asks us to give her a chance to talk to her son about surrendering himself. We didn’t know whether we could trust the mother or not but we just gave her the benefit of the doubt. Before reaching our house, the girlfriend gets a text message from the suspect saying “What are you doing here and who are those people with you?” We asked her not to reply. We got home at almost 2am.
At 4am, we get a message from the mother to meet us in the suspects house at 5am. So without taking a shower, we left, picked up the CIDG boys and headed over to the meeting place. After a few minutes, the mother comes out with the suspect. We interrogated him at the precinct. It was then that I learned that in addition to the stuff that I mentioned, they also stole my underwater camera set worth around 200k. He admitted selling everything in Quiapo for just 40k.
We waited until 9am for shops to open then headed on to Hidalgo. The plan was for the suspect to point the shops where he sold my stuff to, then I would go and pretend to be a buyer. If I find any, I would scratch my head as signal for them to come in. Unfortunately, I could not find any of my stuff and felt hopeless already when the seller said he was able to sell a Nikon D810 for 95k a couple of days ago.
The CIDG boys however had a plan B. Now we will make the suspect talk to them and then arrest them hoping they would confess. However, Quiapo was outside their jurisdiction so we had to seek help from WPD. They used contacts of their contacts to make the WPD move. We waited to talk to some officials and after a long wait, by 1pm, we were ready to make a move. The WPD boys convoyed with us back to Hidalgo. Our plan was plain and simple, suspect would talk to the buyer, if he doesn’t cooperate, we take him in to HQ. Captain Reyes though already predicted what he would do – He would deny this and get mad at the suspect. Everything happened as he said. At first saying that “He just got there. He’s never met the suspect. He’s got the wrong guy etc.” But with around a dozen policemen with guns came in to “apply pressure,” he had no choice but to come. I gave my number to his brother and promised that I will ensure he would not get hurt and that I just wanted my gear back.
At the HQ, he admitted to having bought the equipment but that it was already disposed “fast break” meaning sold quickly with little profit. He promised to try and recover as much as he can. The CIDG guys make him sign a statement admitting the purchase of stolen goods and the commitment to return the items in 3 days.
After bringing the CIDG boys back to their camp, I offered them a little allowance for their hard work which was so much deserved. They didn’t want to accept my money no matter how hard I tried. They said “If we get that baka hindi ka ulit lumapit” to which I said “If you don’t get it, mahihiya na ako lumapit.”
It was a great experience not only seeing them but being with them in action. It brought back my respect for the PNP and after sharing their stories to me and me sharing my faith to them. I know that there are still gentlemen and heroes in the squad.
A CONFLICT OF 2 GOOD THINGS:
The day after the arrest, the buyer calls to say he was able to retrieve everything except the 24-70 lens. I told him I wouldn’t want to accept that as it would complicate our computation.
On the 2nd day, CIDG people had called me again asking why I would offer to return the money to him. “He’s a crook. He obviously knows its stolen because 1st how can the suspect be able to buy 700k worth of equipment and 2nd why would he sell it at 5% of the price? If you pay him, he won’t learn his lesson.” They really wanted to protect my interest.
My dilemma was at this moment does God want me to honor my word or honor authority + teach these black market people a lesson? It was a hard decision. Almost everyone I spoke to advised me not to pay but in the end, I paid the guy 30k since he was very cooperative from the start.
The next day God affirmed that I made the right decision through my reading. Ecclesiastes 3:4-5 “Pay what you have vowed – better not to vow than to vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause you to sin.”
Something that surprised people was how I was able to fit in two days of police work in my already cramped schedule. Where did I get all those time?
First let me ask you: How is your schedule? Are you busy? What if something important comes, are you able to accept that? What should you do? How would you differentiate Urgent and important? What’s the right question to ask? Here are my suggestions:
THE STARTING POINT TO MANAGING TIME & SETTING PRIORITIES IS TO THINK OF WHO YOU ARE AND WHATS IMPORTANT TO YOU. ONCE YOU”VE DONE THAT YOU CONTINUALLY ORGANIZE YOUR ACTIVITIES SO THAT WHAT MATTERS ALWAYS COMES FIRST.
Separate urgent from important – urgent is seldom important. However, sometimes people are confused about the difference between the two.
URGENT – something that must be dealt with immediately (often determined by external bosses) but not necessarily having long term value.
IMPORTANT – something that has serious potential consequences.
Thank you to the team of the Southern Police District CDIG headed by Major Nino who did an awesome job handling my case. The operative team composed of Captain Reyes, Sgt Rey, Sgt Mel, Spo2 John, Spo4 Corpuz are world class and descent people. It changed my perspective about policemen and strengthened my faith in the country. Thank you also to Diana Ong of PIXEL PRO (Henry’s) who only took around 5 minutes to send the receipt of my camera which was required for the case. To ever dependable Onnie & Roger who stayed with me throughout this ordeal. Most thanks to Alex Ruelo & his family for hooking us up with the right people and for making this all possible (pang underground ka talaga). Bgy Captain Jerome Chua for having those CCTV work 24/7 and of course our very Awesome God for this unbelievable story!
The real learning for both John and I: Our God is a God of Justice. Looking back, God was our refuge. Many times, we got discouraged thinking, nothing would happen and this will be our very loss. But our God moves and protects his people. When we experienced justice – God allowed us to practice Grace. We gave back the house boy freedom, knowing that he truly repented. He sinned because of the wrong motives of the heart – to go home and start a new life. Now we are reminding him of his new lease in life. We also showed the buyer that he did not have a loss but a chance to have a win in knowing the Lord. So God still worked everything out for good.