7 fake cops in robbery-extortion racket arrestedBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Drug detainee Henry Santos was unable to hide his surprise when he saw the “policemen” who tried to arrest him a month earlier being hauled off to a jail cell beside his, last Friday night.
“O ser, bakit andiyan yung mga pulis (Sir, why are the police here)?” he asked the jail keeper at the Fairview police station.
The seven men he assumed to be cops turned out to be fakes who had victimized and extorted money from four complainants.
Chief Superintendent Mario de la Vega, the Quezon City Police District director, called on others who may have been conned by the fake policemen, who would go around in a van or two motorcycles in the guise of nabbing drug suspects and then stealing their belongings.
Suspects Ricardo Puzon, 33; Edwin Mallari, 35; Romeo Mendoza, 45; Johnny Mendoza, 34; Alejandro Cortez, 39; Fernando Tolentino, 39; and Augusto Rodriguez, 42, were presented in a press conference on Monday following their arrest on Friday night, at a checkpoint in Barangay (village) Sta. Lucia.
Another member, Reynaldo Buen, 54, was nabbed in a follow-up operation at a house on Rosal Street in Novaliches, to where one of the victims claimed he was taken.
Following the arrests, other complainants surfaced at the Fairview police station to tag the fake cops as the ones who also robbed them.
The group’s first victim so far was Santos, a drug detainee who said the robbers, pretending to be cops, forced their way into his house in Sta. Lucia last July, on the pretext of arresting someone but stole two wristwatches, an MP4 player and some cash.
Santos was nabbed last week for a drug case and was inside the Fairview police station’s detention cell on Friday night when he saw the fake cops being hauled off behind bars.
“I really thought they were policemen,” he told reporters on Monday, his hands in handcuffs.
The gang was arrested earlier on Friday night at a checkpoint in the barangay while aboard their black Toyota Liteace van.
Fairview police station commander Supt. Virgilio Fabian said his men accosted the suspects, who were unable to present any identification.
It turned out that the suspects had just come from accosting a 16-year-old boy and his neighbor, Erwin Ibuan, also residents of the same barangay.
The boy’s mother, Adelaida Orendain, claimed her son saw Ibuan being accosted and that when her son tried to walk on home, the suspects tried to take him too for no reason at all.
One even introduced himself as a certain Inspector Aquino from Camp Karingal in a bid to make the ruse seem legitimate.
“I told them that if they were going to arrest anyone, they should first coordinate with the barangay. They were hurting my son who was just walking home from the Internet shop,” Orendain said.
The mother was unable to control her anger on Monday, after the press conference, slapping and hitting some of the suspects as she confronted them for laying a finger on her son.
Aside from the Toyota Liteace van, police also recovered three motorcycles at Buen’s house, as well as a knife and a packet of suspected marijuana leaves.
Police also seized a Taurus 9 mm pistol and a .22 magnum revolver when the suspects were arrested at the checkpoint, as well as the P300 stolen from Ibuan.
Senior Supt. Neri Ilagan, deputy director for operations, said all the four vehicles were marked with “police” stickers and license plates.
Another victim, laborer Larry Pimo, also surfaced on Friday night and pointed to the men as those who accosted him and even shoved him inside the van last September 10 at 7 a.m.
Pimo said three men walked up to him while he was waiting on Abad corner Humabon Streets on his bike and claimed to be policemen.
Two of the men searched his pockets while one pointed a gun at his side. He was later pushed into the van after his P6,000 and cell phone were taken by the suspects.
“They drove around for three hours and kept pushing down my head so I wouldn’t be seen. They never told me why they were taking me. They kept telling me not to report the incident or else something would happen to me,” Pimo recalled.
At one point, one of the six suspects inside the van even tried to contact Pimo’s family to no avail.
The man was finally released a kilometer away from where he was abducted. Upon hearing of the gang’s arrest, he went to the police station to file his own complaint against the fake policemen.
Senior Supt. Joel Pagdilao said the suspects have been subjected to inquest proceedings for usurpation of authority, robbery, grave threats and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
Fabian added that the gang was operating not only in Barangay Sta. Lucia but in Culiat, parts of Caloocan City and other areas in Metro Manila.
With the arrest, De la Vega urged residents to be more sharp in dealing with such hooligans.
“They should ask for the identification of those claiming to be policemen. Do not be easily fooled by their ruse,” the police official added.