The city government of Manila is now hunting down a gang who has been collecting “millions of protection fees” for decades from vegetable dealers in Divisoria.
This move came after a group of vegetable dealers in Divisoria reported to Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada that the notorious gang has been collecting fees from them since 1980s.
The vegetable traders told Estrada that they each pay P2,800 every week to this group to be able to use a portion of Recto Avenue to unload their cargo.
Worse, the traders also revealed that the gang has long been using the name of Estrada to extort, prompting the mayor to order an investigation.
Estrada urged the vendors and vegetable dealers to name those mulcting money from them or the “tong” collectors and the masterminds.
“My office is always open to anyone,” he said.
The vegetable dealers, most of whom were from Benguet, further claimed they shell out R80 a day for a bogus “business permit” and P300 “intelligence fee”, aside from the weekly P2,800 fee, so they can be allowed to park along Recto Avenue leading to Divisoria Market to unload their cargo.
Estrada ordered Senior Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo, deputy director for operations of the Manila Police District (MPD), and Che Borromeo, head of Task Force Manila, to look into the vendors’ claims.
Pedrozo and Borromeo were given a week to identify every member of the extortion gang and those backing them up.
“I always tell everyone to not oppress the poor and those earning a living because they are already poor and we must help them,” Estrada said of the protection racket in Recto and Divisoria.
Since last week, the Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau (MTPB), prohibited the vegetable dealers from traversing Recto Avenue. They were advised instead to use the side streets so as not to disrupt traffic flow.
This was an offshoot of the series of road clearing operations in Divisoria and other areas in Manila.
(Betheena Kae Unite)