Police in the Philippines Arrest Seven of Their Own for Gambling Extortion
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is in the process of rebuilding its public image, but has an uphill battle ahead. Seven officers face charges of extortion in several cases with illegal gambling undertones.
The PNP’s Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group (IMEG) reported that the seven were apprehended for unlawfully imprisoning and detaining 13 individuals. Upon making a series of arrests on trumped-up charges, they told the suspects they would list their crimes as illegal gambling in exchange for money.
Media outlet Manila Standard lists several high-ranking officials among those allegedly involved. The list includes the station commander of the Angeles City Police Office, Marvin Aquino, Master Sergeant Romulo Meligrito, Staff Sergeants Nikko Dave Marquez and Mark Steven Sison and Corporals Richard Gozum, Diosdado Buenconsejo Villamor Jr. and Jaypee Mangilit.
Brought Down By Their Own Bust
The activity came to light after one of the victim’s daughters lodged a complaint. Police arrested her on May 28, accusing her of illegal drug possession. That was a false claim, but the officer involved then offered to reduce the charge to illegal gambling, which would carry a lighter sentence.
The officer allegedly demanded PHP30,000 (US$533) from the victim. That led to an investigation that uncovered a larger problem at the police station. Authorities stated that 13 arrests took place without any formal accusations against the citizens. There was no documentation or record explaining the reason behind the detainments, nor was there any justification for their subsequent release.
The police officers who were apprehended were sent to the IMEG Detention Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City. They are reportedly still under arrest as the National Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice in Manila prepares its case.
The PNP recently increased its scrutiny of the force following reports that some officers had stolen drugs and paraphernalia from an evidence locker and then sold them on the streets.
But extortion has been an issue for a while, as well. Almost a year ago, three officers were arrested after trying to extort money from a man in Manila.
Philippines Becomes a “Scam Hub”
Those issues, and others like the recent human trafficking scandal involving over 1,000 victims, are putting the Philippines in a bad light. As a result, the government is now leading an effort to overhaul its police force, as well as its gambling industry.
Ongoing hearings in the Senate have highlighted the embarrassment the human trafficking cases are bringing to the country. In many cases, those behind the crimes use their victims to man illegal gambling and call center operations.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, in one of the hearings, said that the Philippines is “becoming a scam hub.” She was primarily referring to the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) segment, which has fallen apart and is prone to corruption.
To that end, Gatchalian believes the gaming regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), is no longer up for the task. She accused it of being corrupt and not doing its job.
There have already been calls for the forced dismantlement of PAGCOR. The human trafficking scandal didn’t help, and the calls are getting increasingly louder.
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