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Police officer tagged in extortion surrenders

By: Aaron B. Recuenco

A police official assigned in Taguig City has surrendered after his name popped out during the investigation on a group of barangay security officers who arrested and extorted money from a truck driver and helper under the guise of anti-drugs operation.

Senior Inspector Cesar Espejo, a precinct commander in Taguig City, is being linked as the possible mastermind of a modus operandi of arresting truck drivers and other persons using drug charges as a threat to force the victim to cough out money, with some erring barangay tanod as the arresting team.

“He (Espejo) admitted that they received P30,000 in exchange for the release of the truck driver. Accordingly, he took the P5,000 and give it to a certain Big Boy and the remaining P25,000 ‘for the boys’,” said Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“For the boys” is one of the police lingos referring to the money being given by a commander to his men to be used in drinking session usually in nightclubs.

The surrender of Espejo stemmed from the complaint of a woman who went to the office of the Counter-Intelligence Task Force (CITF) at Camp Crame in Quezon City to seek assistance against a group of alleged policemen who arrested her live-in partner in Taguig City.

Aside from the truck driver, the group also collared the truck helper. They then contacted their respective partners and demanded money for their release.

It was later found out that the truck driver was released after paying P30,000 while the truck helper was held pending the payment of additional P10,000 which was later reduced to P6,000.

The CITF then mapped out an entrapment which resulted in the arrest of Reggie Adrales, Bobby Tejero, Rolly Barcelo, Antonio Bontia, Antonio Bag-ao and Stephanie Villanueva, all barangay tanod of Western Bicutan in Taguig. The truck helper was later rescued inside the barangay hall.

Senior Supt. Chiquito Malayo, CITF commander, said a follow-up operation also resulted in the arrest of another suspect identified as Edwin del Valle.

Dela Rosa said the name of Espejo came out after the CITF established that what the arrested suspects did is already a modus operandi wherein they would pose as policemen, allegedly with a blessing from the local police.

Some of them yielded handguns during their arrest.

Charges that include kidnapping, usurpation of authority and illegal possession of firearms were slapped against the suspects before the Department of Justice according to dela Rosa.

Malayo said a background check revealed that Espejo’s name already appeared in their long list of policemen whom the public reported to be scalawags.

“We received a text message last February wherein his name was included pertaining to illegal activity. But it goes through a process and he was included because of the evidence on hand based on the complaint of the partners of the truck driver and the truck helper,” said Malayo.

More or less 1,000 policemen are currently being investigated by the CITF based on the complaints they have been receiving since the creation of the anti-scalawag unit four months ago.