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7 Manila cops relieved over extortion complaints

Seven cops accused of extorting money from vendors in Ermita, Manila, have been relieved from their posts, Manila Police District Director (MPD) director Senior Supt. Joel Coronel said yesterday.

Coronel identified the accused cops as SPO2 Marvin Velasquez, SPO2 Rommel Alfaro, PO3 Leo De Jose, PO3 John John David, PO2 Romeo Rosini, PO1 Ronie Boy Alonzo, and PO1 James Paul Cruz, all assigned to MPD Station 5.

“Pina-relieve po sila presently from their station and we asked them to report within 24 hours to the District Headquarters para sagutin ‘yung complaints laban sa kanila,” Coronel said.

The policemen were also ordered to surrender their firearms and badges while the investigation is ongoing.

“They will be held liable administratively and criminally for extortion activities and grave misconduct,” Coronel said. “Dismissal kung gross misconduct ang mapapatunayan.”

Members of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay Manila) and United Vendors Alliance (UVA) who trooped to MPD Headquarters were given a chance to hold a dialogue with the MPD chief. They presented photos and videos to prove their accusations.

Fifty-one-year-old Jean Alvarez, who has been tending her goods along Kalaw for 20 years now, said this is the first time she encountered such a problem.

“Kaya nakarating kami rito ay dahil hindi na namin matiis ‘yung pang-aapi nila. Kami ay naghahanapbuhay nang marangal, bakit nila kami tinatrato ng ganito?,” the vendor said.

Alvarez, who earns an average of P700 a day said the cops demand P200 from her every day.

“Kung magkano ang hilingin nila, gusto nila ibigay namin. Pag di kami makabigay, kukunin nila ang paninda namin tapos tutubusin namin,” she said. “Alam ko delikado ang ginagawa ko pero ano ang gagawin namin, hanggang ngayon, binabantayan kami, para kaming kriminal.”

Coronel, however, said that to ensure their safety, he has ordered his men to stay away from the vendors unless a crime happens.

“[This is why] I already ordered the policemen’s immediate relief kasi it’s part of the preventive measures.

Considering the seriousness of the accusations, iniiwasan natin na harassin pa sila, balikan sila,” he said.

Coronel said he will talk to the vendors, the National Park Development Committee, Manila City Hall, and the barangays so that vendors with similar complaints will be able to air their concerns.

“We want to show them that we are going to act kasi ‘yun po ang programa ng ating chief PNP, ‘yung internal cleansing pagtapos nung kidnapping with murder ng Korean national,” Coronel said.

Supt. Emerey Abating, MPD Station 5 chief, however refuted the allegations against his men.

Abating, who personally appeared before MPD’s General Assignment Investigation Section (GAIS), together with the seven cops, said his team is only acting on the order of Mayor Joseph Estrada to conduct clearing operations to free the vicinity of the National Library of illegal vendors. (Jaimie Rose R. Aberia)

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