NBI probes alleged extort try by own official, agents

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/12 August) – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) internal affairs division (IAD) has launched a full investigation into the involvement of one of its officials and seven agents assigned in Region 12 in an alleged extortion attempt on a junkshop trader here last month.

Lawyer Lourdes Detacio, NBI-IAD supervising agent, said Friday they have started gathering evidences to validate the anti-piracy, anti-highway robbery and arbitrary detention complaints filed by police authorities here against NBI Region 12 supervising agent Atty. Darwin Lising and seven of their agents.

Detacio arrived here earlier this week along with Special Investigator III Ronnie Ocampo to spearhead the internal probe based on a directive issued by NBI Assistant Director Medardo de Lemos.

“We were tasked to verify the allegations received by Manila (NBI central office) and come up with the appropriate recommendations based on the available evidences,” she told reporters.

City police investigators earlier filed a complaint at the City Prosecutor’s Office against Lising and seven of his men for violation of Presidential Decree 532 or the Anti-piracy and Anti-highway Robbery Law and for arbitrary detention.

The charges stemmed from an alleged attempt made by Lising and his men to extort some P400,000 to P1 million from local junkshop owner Rommel Lumanta in exchange for the release of his truck loaded with scrap metal that was apprehended by the NBI.

Chief Insp. Leo Sua, Pendatun police station chief here, said they filed the complaint based on Lumanta’s accounts, which were backed by closed-circuit television or CCTV footages and several recorded mobile phone conversations that allegedly showed Lising negotiating for a payout for the seized vehicle.

Lumanta earlier claimed the alleged extortion try started after his 10-wheeler truck was stopped by NBI agents last July 9 along the national highway in Barangay Tinagacan here.

He said the NBI agents, who were allegedly led by Lising, took custody of the vehicle, its driver and two helpers on suspicions that it was then carrying stolen cable wires.

Lumanta claimed Lising initially offered a settlement of P1 million for the release of the truck but later lowered the amount to P400,000.

But he said Lising later backed off from his demands and released the truck unconditionally after he reported the matter to local police authorities.

Lawyer Angelito Magno, NBI Region 12 director, earlier defended Lising and his men saying the apprehension of Lumanta’s truck was part of a legitimate operation conducted by their office.

He denied the supposed extortion try and challenged the trader to file the appropriate charges against Lising and his men.

Detacio said they initially filed a request before the City Prosecutor’s Office here for the copies of the complaints and other documents or records of the cases that had been filed against Lising and the seven agents whose identities were withheld pending the filing of formal charges against them.

She said they also asked the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Region 12 for copies of the CCTV footages and the recorded mobile phone conversations, which were earlier submitted by city police investigators for digital forensic investigation.

“We’re still on the initial stages of our investigation and we intend to gather as much evidences as we can so we can properly evaluate this case,” Detacio said.

She assured the impartiality of their ongoing investigation, stressing they want the truth to come out and eventually help clear the NBI’s name as a result of such controversy.

City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio earlier expressed apprehension over the alleged extortion attempt and urged the NBI central office to conduct a deeper probe on the incident.

Manuel Yaphockun, director of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., also condemned the incident and expressed support to the filing of charges against the NBI personnel who figured in the alleged extortion try. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)