ILOILO CITY—Police have raised an alert about a criminal group using fake peso bills after nine alleged gang members were arrested in a series of operations in Boracay and Caticlan over the weekend.
The nine suspects, mostly from Iloilo and Negros Occidental, were arrested in three operations by the Boracay and Malay police from the evening of March 16 until the next morning.
All the suspects were detained at the Malay police station and would face various criminal charges including violation of Articles 164 (Mutilation of Coins) and 168 (Possession of Fake/Counterfeit Money) of the Revised Penal Code.
Senior Supt. Cornelio Defensor, Aklan police director, said seized from the suspects were “around P92,000 in fake and genuine money.”
The peso bills will be examined by Central Bank representatives to determine which are fake and genuine. Several of the confiscated peso bills had the same serial numbers, according to the police report.
The Central Bank representatives would also file charges against the suspects, Defensor said.
Three other members of the group were believed to have eluded arrest and were being hunted.
Police first arrested Enrique Lastimoso, 40, around 8 p.m. on March 16 after he was accosted by a security guard at the D’Mall commercial complex on Boracay Island.
Lastimoso had bought an item at a flower shop inside the mall using a P1,000 bill which was later found to be fake. He was arrested after he returned to the shop and attempted to buy another item with another P1,000 bill.
Based on information gathered by investigators during the interrogation of Lastimoso, members of the Boracay Special Tourist Police Office and Malay police station arrested the eight other suspects in separate operations at the Caticlan jetty port and at a lodging house in Caticlan.
A report of the Aklan Provincial Police Office identified the other suspects as Julian Rebolles, 57; his son and namesake Julian Jr., 25; Eddie Dubrea, Joseph Villaluna, 50; Jose Marie Laurel, 38; Joseph Escuton, 25; Ernesto Marcelino, 56; and Jerry Palerer, 44.
Defensor said charges would be filed against the suspects with the Aklan provincial prosecutor’s office on Tuesday.
He said the suspects were believed to be part of a syndicate operating in Western Visayas and Mindoro and Romblon Islands.
Investigators were still determining the source and manufacturer of the fake peso bills.
“They have refused to answer questions on the identities of their companions and the source of the counterfeit bills,” Defensor said.
He said the group members, who arrived in Boracay on March 16, could be anticipating the influx of tourists on the island for the summer vacation.
Villaluna, one of those arrested, was also identified as having used fake money in cockfight derbies during festivals in the capital town of Kalibo.
Defensor said they have advised business establishments to reject counterfeit money.