Maritime police chief, 5 men held for rob-extort

AGENTS of the Philippine National Police Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group (PNP-IMEG) early morning yesterday arrested six maritime policemen in Masbate City led by their commanding officer for robbery-extortion, PNP-IMEG director, Brigadier General Ronald O. Lee said.

In a report to PNP chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, the official said the six arrested were led by Major John Murray Cutaran, the chief of the 502nd Maritime Police Station based in Masbate City.

Lee said all six were disarmed by members of the PNP-IMEG Luzon and Visayas Field Units who conducted the entrapment operation right inside the 502nd MARPSTA office located at Pier Site in Barangay Bapor, Masbate City 8:25 a.m. yesterday.

“The entrapment operation was conducted following a series of validation of intelligence reports regarding the alleged extortion activities of Maj. Cutaran and his men,” said the PNP-IMEG director.

The suspects were arrested shortly after they received the P200,000 they demanded from the operator of a fishing vessel they impounded for alleged involvement in illegal fishing activities in their territory.

An investigation showed that the maritime policemen intercepted F/B RAV and arrested its skipper Juquin Nemeno and his 28 crew. They later contacted the fishing boat owner based in Bantayan Island in Cebu province  and initially demanded P400,000 from him in exchange for the release of his fishing vessel and employees.

Lee said that the fishing boat operator sought their help to arrest the erring policemen and travelled all the way from Bantayan Island to Masbate City on board another boat while accompanied by undercover IMEG officers.

The official said members of the 95th Special Action Company of the PNP Special Action Force and the Police Regional Office 5 Regional Mobile Force Battalion and Regional Intelligence Division and the Masbate Police Provincial Office under PRO5 director, Brig. Gen. Anthony S. Alcañeses supported them in the conduct of the operation.

On February last year, members of the forerunner of the PNP-IMEG, the now defunct PNP Counter-Intelligence Task Force also arrested the chief of the 402nd Cavite Maritime Police Station in Tanza, Cavite for allegedly extorting ‘protection’ money from local fishermen.

The arrest of the accused—a Lieutenant Colonel-- came amid complaints from several owners of motorized bancas who claimed that the official was demanding as much as P21,000 in cash per month from their association.

The cash is supposedly meant as a ‘protection money’ as fishermen in the municipal waters of Tanza or within 15 kilometers from the town’s shore are prohibited from using large bancas. During the sting, the official was caught in the act of receiving P18,000 in marked bills from one of the complainants.

Maj. Cutaran was the latest Police Commissioned Officer to be arrested by PNP-IMEG operatives for robbery-extortion.

Last July 4, PNP-IMEG operatives also arrested Captain Harn Ulah, the chief of the Godod Municipal Police Station in Zamboanga del Norte for a similar offense.

Lee said that complainant Jose Abarca sought their assistance after the police officer demanded P10,000 from him in exchange for his unhampered treasure-hunting activities in Sitio Riverside in Barangay Baba in Godod municipality. The first payoff was reportedly made last May 29.