The Philippine National Police (PNP) is facing a challenging task in rebuilding its public image as seven officers have been charged with extortion in cases involving illegal gambling.
The PNP's Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group (IMEG) revealed that the seven officers were apprehended for unlawfully imprisoning and detaining 13 individuals. They allegedly made false arrests and then offered to list the charges as illegal gambling in exchange for money.
According to Manila Standard, high-ranking officials implicated in the case include Marvin Aquino, the station commander of the Angeles City Police Office, as well as Master Sergeant Romulo Meligrito, Staff Sergeants Nikko Dave Marquez and Mark Steven Sison, and Corporals Richard Gozum, Diosdado Buenconsejo Villamor Jr., and Jaypee Mangilit.
The incident came to light when the daughter of one of the victims filed a complaint. The police had falsely accused her of drug possession and offered to reduce the charges to illegal gambling, which carries a lighter sentence, in exchange for PHP30,000 (US$533). The subsequent investigation revealed a larger problem within the police station, with 13 arrests made without formal accusations, documentation, or justification for detainment or release.
The apprehended police officers have been placed in the IMEG Detention Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, and remain under arrest while the National Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice prepares its case.
The PNP has recently faced increased scrutiny due to reports of officers stealing drugs and paraphernalia from evidence lockers for sale on the streets. Extortion has been an ongoing issue, as highlighted by the arrest of three officers last year for attempting to extort money from an individual in Manila.
These incidents, along with other scandals such as the human trafficking case involving over 1,000 victims, have negatively affected the Philippines' reputation. Consequently, the government is leading efforts to reform the police force and the gambling industry.
Senate hearings have shed light on the embarrassment caused by the human trafficking cases, revealing that criminals exploit victims in illegal gambling and call center operations. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian referred to the Philippines as a "scam hub" during one of the hearings, primarily citing issues within the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) segment, which has been marred by corruption.
Gatchalian criticized the gaming regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), accusing it of corruption and ineffectiveness. There have been calls for the forced dismantlement of PAGCOR, with the human trafficking scandal further fueling these demands.
By fLEXI tEAM