Ombudsman investigator nabbed for extortion try
DAGUPAN CITY — An investigator of the Office of the Ombudsman and a lawyer were arrested on Friday for allegedly trying to extort P3 million from Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr. and his son, Mayor Jumel Espino of Bugallon town, in exchange for dropping an investigation into anomalies supposedly reported by government auditors.
Ombudsman investigator, Leonard Nicolas, and his cousin, lawyer Isagani Nicolas, who serves as labor arbiter, were arrested after an entrapment operation by National Bureau of Investigation agents at the Capitol Resort Hotel in Lingayen town.
Representatives from the Ombudsman’s office joined the agents during the operation, and confirmed that documents, which Leonard released to Espino’s emissary, provincial accountant Arturo Soriano, bore fake signatures.
Leonard and Isagani were immediately taken to Metro Manila, where they are now detained.
Provincial legal officer, Geraldine Baniqued, said Leonard had first called her in May, offering to help Mayor Espino, who supposedly had a case emanating from the Commission on Audit (COA). Leonard described himself as a lawyer from the Ombudsman, she said.
“So I called Mayor Jumel and he said he could not recall a problem with the COA,” Baniqued said.
“The town was even awarded a Seal of Good Local Governance, which meant they did not have any notices of disallowance from COA,” Baniqued said.
She agreed to meet Leonard “out of curiosity,” along with some Bugallon officials. During that meeting, Baniqued said Leonard assured them he could help dismiss the case as long as they cooperated.
“When we asked him what he meant by cooperation, [Leonard] mentioned a price for each of the cases, which ran to about P1.35 million,” Baniqued said.
Nicolas had refused to give her copies of the supposed cases.
“When I told Mayor Jumel about it … he said he did not commit any wrongdoing and told me to tell Leonard to just file the case,” Baniqued said.
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