MANAOAG, Pangasinan: Police have filed a robbery-extortion case against the leader and two members of a Manila-based syndicate engaged in mulcting businessmen, politicians and even police officers using their alleged media connections and ties with some top Philippine National Police (PNP) officers in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Senior Supt. Ronald Oliver-Lee, provincial police director, said they had arrested the ring leader Benjamin Aquino Cruz of Barangay Obong in Basista town.
His two cohorts, Joseph Lagua and Noel Acutayan, both of Mactan Street in Barangay Commonwealth, Quezon City, are both at-large.
The three were accused before the provincial prosecutor in Urdaneta on the complaint of Juanito dela Vega, a businessman managing a taho (soya drink) business in Mangaldan town and operates a drop-ball game.
Cruz was arrested in an entrapment at a bus terminal here last week.
Senior Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Ephraim Tomboc has recommended a P100,000-bail for Cruz.
Chief Insp. Dave Mahilum, chief of police here, said Cruz was arrested after receiving two envelopes containing P2,000 each from dela Vega.
Lagua and Acutayan sent separate text messages to dela Vega allegedly demanding P5,000 each and instructed him to give the money to Cruz.
Dela Vega claimed that Lagua introduced himself as a media consultant of PNP chief and Director General Ronald dela Rosa and demanded money from him three times a month ranging from P3,000 to P10,000.
Acutayan introduced himself to dela Vega as news director of CNN in Manila and connected to a certain General Benjie Magalong assigned at Camp Crame.
He was allegedly extorting P5,000 monthly from dela Vega as protection money for his taho and allegedly illegal gambling businesses.
Dela Vega told policemen that more than P100,000 cash was extorted from him by the suspects.
At the police station, Cruz showed to policemen his identification cards supposedly proving that he is a correspondent of CNN News Manila-Headline Philippines and People’s Network and Media Communication where Lagua supposedly is the chairman and Acutayan the treasurer.
Cruz told The Manila Times that Lagua and Acutayan also receive monthly payola from illegal gambling drop-ball operators in Bugallon, Lingayen, Urdaneta City, San Fabian, Manaoag, Mangaldan, Binalonan, Laoac, Bayambang, Santa Barbara, Calasiao—all in Pangasinan—and Baguio City using the names of some PNP generals.
He also named Apollo Allan Tigulo, who was designated by Lagua as director of their group in Region I, as his companion in extorting protection money from drop-ball operators.
Cruz also admitted he was with Lagua and Acutayan when they extorted P2,000 from Mayor Kim Amador of Manaoag town in July this year.