The news was disclosed in a report by a PNP task force codenamed “Tugis”, which was specifically assembled to bring the Reyes brothers into custody, reports online Philippine newspaper Inquirer.net.
The task force had the brothers under surveillance since 2011, after the murder of Philippine broadcaster and environmental activist Gerry Ortega, said the report.
But since 2012, the fugitives were quietly living in Rawai. (See story here.)
Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and ex-Coron mayor Mario Reyes were two of the most wanted fugitives in the Philippines, Each with a 2-million-peso (B1.5-million) reward on their heads.
But they managed to elude their arrest allegedly with the help of a “drug lord” based in Phuket, said the report.
“They were believed to be coddled by a certain Mr Lim, an alleged drug lord in Phuket, Thailand,” a portion of the report said. (See story here.)
Asked if the police had information on the alleged protectors of the Reyes brothers in Thailand, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group head Police Director Victor Deona said: “We don’t have information about [their] coddlers.”
Mr Deona, along with Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento and PNP chief Director General Ricardo Marquez, presented the arrested brothers to the media at a press briefing at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame on Friday (Sept 25).
Members of Task Force Tugis met with Thai police and immigration authorities on August 25, 2014 to discuss the “status of Ortega’s murder case and significant information about the Reyes brothers”, it was explained at the Camp Crame press conference.
Thai immigration records showed that the brothers entered Thailand via MH790 flight on April 16, 2012, almost a month after the arrest warrants for murder were issued against them for allegedly masterminding the killing of Ortega, reported the Inquirer.
However, their visas allowed them to stay in Thailand only until until May 15, 2012. After that point they were illegally staying in the country.
A planned mission to come to Phuket to check the exact location of a mobile phone number monitored at “4028, Karon, Mueang Phuket District” later proved fruitless, and after months of surveillance, the Thai Interpol devised “Operation Jeepney” as a manhunt for the fugitives.
The Karon Connection
The tracing of a mobile phone believed used by the Reyes brothers led Thai Interpol to Soi Hinkaaw, in Karon, where there is a small Filipino community, said the PNP.
“The phone number location was fixed in one place and the phone activities were unusual from time to time. It appears that the user opens the phone only to check incoming messages,” the PNP report said.
Authorities traced the number’s call records and found that the phone was used to call a number in Rawai, as well to several locales in the Philippines.
“After months of stake out and surveillance operations, the Royal Thai Interpol were able to pinpoint the house wherein one of the occupants who looked like Joel Reyes was sighted,” said the report.
Acting on the new lead, the local Thai police raided the house but they were able to escape the arrest.
“After the operatives’ continuous monitoring, the Interpol monitored a Thai number linked to the Reyeses and found that it was located in 3025 Rawai, Mueang. Thai authorities then informed the PNP on the development,” reported the Inquirer.
Read the full Inquirer report here.