AN OFFICIAL of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-Northern Mindanao is warning the public against a scam that capitalizes on the brutal war on drugs to extort money from randomly selected victims. 

Cyber investigator Police Officer 1 Shella May Edon Mentopa said the modus of the scammers is to inform their victims that their names supposedly appeared in the list of individuals for liquidation. 

Mentopa said the scammers, who pose as hired killers, then offer not to carry out the assassination in exchange for a certain amount. 

Mentopa said the PRO cyber crime unit has recorded 10 incidents of this type of extortion activity from June to October this year.

“Ubay-ubay na gyud ang reports. Ang modus aning mga mangingilad is gi-hire daw sila nga patyon ilang biktima pero moingon dayon nga buotan man diay ning ilang biktima so ilang buhaton ipa-refund na lang nila ang ilang gasto para dili nila dayonon ang assignment (There are already several reports. The modus of these scammers is to inform their victims that they will kill them but will say that their victims are good persons so they will ask for a refund from the victims in order to discontinue the assignment),” Mentopa said.

Mentopa said further the practice was first reported last year but said the number of cases has risen dramatically after President Rodrigo Duterte launched his war on drugs. 

An unnamed victim interviewed by GMA's Balitanghali news program Tuesday, December 6, narrated how she was victimized. 

The female victim from Manila said someone called her and threatened to kill her and her family but the kill order will be quashed if she will give P50,000.

“Mataas ang number ng killings (The number of killings are high) lately especially sa tokhang na mayroon tayo ngayon (on the tokhang we have nowadays),” she said, quoting the extortionists.

She said subsequent negotiations persuaded the unidentified man to accept a P10,000 downpayment which she sent to a certain Rosbell Golobio through a money remittance center.

The victim later found out that the money was claimed in Cagayan de Oro City.

Another local businessman who requested anonymity experienced similar style of extortion two months ago.

“Gi-hire daw sila nga patyon ko (They said they were hired to kill me) for P200,000 and next call was apilon akong pamilya (with the inclusion of my family) for additional P50,000. Dili daw nila dayonon if ihatag nako ang same amount para iuli daw nila sa ilang amo (They will not continue if I will be able to give them the same amount to pay back to their boss),” he said.

“Manghadlok sila nga naa nay tawo nagpalibot sa among balay. Ang kwarta daw ipahulog sa remittance center (They threaten me by saying that there are people surrounding our house. The money should be sent through the remittance center),” he added.

The businessman said he dared the suspect to meet him personally instead of sending it through a remittance center.

He said the suspect stopped calling but said he nevertheless reported the incident to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

“Ako ni dayonon og report sa otoridad. Naa man pud ko call records (I will continue to report this to the authorizes. We already have the call records),” he said.

“Wag ho tayong magpadala sa mga ganyang estilo. Wala hong ‘Phone Tokhang.’ Kung sila hoy hindi durugista, hindi nagdo-droga, wala ho silang dapat ikabahala (Do not be fooled by this scam. There is no such thing as ‘Phone Tokhang.’ If they are not drug pushers or personalities, then they have nothing to fear),” Philippine National Police spokesman Dionardo Carlos said over GMA's Balitanghali.

PRO spokesperson Surki Sereñas also urged the public to immediately report to authorities once victimized by the scam.

“That is a modus. We advise them to report to the police as soon as they receive this kind of scam text from unscrupulous individual,” Sereñas said.

“Dugay nani nga scam gisakyan lang ang tokhang nga programa sa gobyerno (There are already scams like this before, they are just relating them to the tokhang program of the government),” Sereñas added.