MALASIQUI, Pangasinan: Police arrested a man claiming to be a a reporter of The Manila Times and publisher of a local tabloid in Pampanga and a woman posing as reporter of another national daily and their two companions while extorting money during an entrapment here.
Senior Insp. George Bacani, chief of investigations and operations of Malasiqui police, identified the suspects as Wilver Tungla-Pasion who introduced himself as reporter of this daily and publisher of Aksyon Balita, and a resident of Angeles City, Pampanga. His companions were Benny Cayugan-Musni of Barangay Atlubula, Mabalacat, Pampanga; Analyn Capulong-Inson, who claimed to be a reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer; and Gilbert Hortaleza-Enriquez both of Barangay San Carlos, Tarlac City.
Pasion and his companions were arrested on Friday while receiving P1,500 marked money from businessman Sony dela Vega in Barangay Poblacion.
Dela Vega said Pasion and his companions contacted his caretaker Tony Sena asking for P5,000 as protection money for his games and amusement business.
Supt. Cirilo Acosta Jr., Malasiqui chief of police, formed a team led by Bacani with Senior Police 0fficer 2 Wilson Iral and Police 0fficer PO3 Julius Macaraeg to conduct an entrapment.
Pasion’s group onboard a Toyota Wigo and arrived in front of dela Vega’s games and amusement establishment. Musni and Inson then approached Dela Vega and asked them to give the money intended for Pasion, who stayed inside the car.
Dela Vega approached Pasion in the car and handed him the marked money. At this juncture, policemen arrested Pasion who tried to resist arrest saying: “I work under Dante Jimenez of VACC [Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption]. You will answer to him if you arrest me.”
At the police station, Pasion and Ison insisted they were reporters but refused to present their identification cards to the police, citing their constitutional rights.
Dela Vega said Pasion’s group has collected more than P60,000 from him since his business started.
At about 9:30 p.m., five alleged VACC members led by Pyra Pia Lucas who claimed to be the group’s coordinator in Region 3 and a policeman assigned to Pampanga, arrived at the police station demanding the release of Pasion and his three companions.
Lucas introduced herself as the first cousin of the VACC chairman.
She also took pictures of the press ID card of this correspondent and told Pasion and his companions that the VACC will initiate legal action against the policemen who arrested them.
The policeman, identified only as P03 Tuazon from Pampanga, approached dela Vega and warned him against pursuing the complaint against the suspects, saying the group is being supported by the VACC.
He also offered P50,000 as settlement but dela Vega refused, saying he will pursue the case against Pasion and his group.
Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Undersecretary Joel Egco urged the policemen in Pangasinan to intensify their operations against anyone posing as mediamen extorting money.
“We do not tolerate these illegal activities of fake or illegitimate newsmen, and I am also appealing to the management of all media outlets to examine the records of their employees and dismiss them if they are not performing [their job]as journalists,” Egco told The Manila Times.