Graft prober, labor arbiter arrested for extorting mayor, solon

>> Thursday, August 3, 2017

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan -- A graft investigator and a labor arbiter were arrested July 14 for allegedly trying to extort over P4 million in exchange for the dismissal of graft charges filed against two Pangasinan officials. 
Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation arrested Leonardo Nicolas Sr., investigator at the Office of the Ombudsman, and his cousin Isagani Nicolas of the National Labor Relations Commission during an entrapment at a hotel in Lingayen.
The cousins are facing charges for direct bribery, robbery, extortion and violation of The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The suspects allegedly demanded money from provincial legal officer Geraldine Baniqued and accountant Arturo Soriano in exchange for the dismissal of the cases filed against Pangasinan fifth district Rep. Amado Espino Jr. and his son Jumel.
Espino was earlier charged with graft in connection with alleged black sand mining in Lingayen Gulf. 
Jumel is facing nine other cases, according to the NBI.
Leonardo allegedly demanded P1.35 million from Baniqued to dismiss the cases filed against Jumel while Isagani asked P3 million from Soriano to settle the charges against Espino.
Leonardo reportedly promised to present a resolution on the dismissal of the cases. 
Soriano said Leonardo contacted him July 12, reiterating his demand, claiming the cases would be docketed and Jumel would be suspended.
Deputy ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquera said they are conducting a parallel probe into Leonardo’s alleged illegal activities.
NBI-special task force chief Moises Tamayo said the cell phone used by the suspects would undergo forensic autopsy.
Pangasinan Provincial Accountant Arturo Soriano confirmed NBI agents from Manila entrapped OMB senior graft investigator Leonardo Nicolas and his cousin  Isagani Nicolas, a lawyer of the NLRC at 5 p.m. July 21 at Capitol Resort Hotel, here.
Soriano, said he was part of the operation to entrap the two, adding they were demanding R1 million for each of the three graft cases filed against Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino and his son, Bugallon Mayor Jumel Espino.
He said that the graft prober first contacted Geraldine Baniqued, provincial legal officer, to demand money in exchange of facilitating the dismissal of the graft cases filed against the Espinos.
Baniqued allegedly told Nicolas, who is also from Pangasinan, that since money was involved, the matter would be handled by Soriano.
On July 14, Soriano met the suspect at Star Plaza Hotel and then later at Lenox Hotel in Dagupan City, during which the suspects demanded P3 million for the dismissal of three pending cases filed against the Espinos.
On July 19, Soriano received a call from the suspects demanding payment, but he replied that he had not yet spoken to Rep. Espino about his decision on their proposal.
Unknown to the suspects, Rep. Espino had already sought the assistance of the NBI, in coordination with the OMB, for the entrapment of the two suspects two days later.

The suspects are now facing charges of violation of Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code (Direct Bribery), Article 293 of the Revised Penal Code (Robbery Extortion), and Section 7d in relation to Section 11 of RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.


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