CATBALOGAN CITY -- A former councilor here and a local government employee are now under investigation for their alleged P20-million robbery/extortion try on city officials.

Former city councilor Rodrigo Perez III and government employee Bernard Jake Ramos have been accused of robbery and extortion try for allegedly asking money from city officials in exchange for the withdrawal of the plunder case filed against them.

Ramos filed the plunder case against members of the City Council, Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan, other city officials, and two private lot owners over the "questionable" purchase of a P125-million worth of lot.

Ramos, in the case he filed before the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman on January 13, said the deal was "dubious" and added that Uy-Tan's family had close ties with the lot owners. He and Perez allegedly told the officials that the case will be withdrawn if they will pay P20 million.

But Perez was arrested in an entrapment operation last February 17, said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Ramos was a no-show during the agreed pay-off date.

A document obtained from NBI Samar District Office stated that it was incumbent Councilor Coefredo Uy who asked the NBI's help on February 13.

Uy narrated that for several occasions, Ramos had called and threatened him and the entire City Council of imprisonment should they fail to pay the P20 million.

The amount was later reduced to P10 million, said Uy.

He added that he gave P50,000, which was coursed through incumbent Councilor Renante Aquino, on February 8.

On February 10, Uy said Ramos called him and asked for another P25,000. Ramos got the money again through Aquino.

The NBI was able to gather evidences showing that Perez and Ramos had met in several occasions and discussed about the extortion plan. The agency conducted entrapment operations on February 8 and 10, but Ramos did not show up.

On February 16, Ramos again demanded for an advance payment of P1 million. Uy then agreed to deliver the money to the store owned by Aquino.

Another entrapment operation was conducted, with NBI agents in civilian clothes deployed at the vicinity of the store located along Del Rosario Street in this city.

The NBI agents found out though, through an exchange of text messages between Aquino and Uy, that Perez will be the one to pick up the money, not Ramos.

It was around 11 a.m. of February 17 when a Toyota Vios owned by Perez passed by the store three times, seemingly observing the “pick-up” area. Minutes later, the vehicle stopped and Perez alighted and entered the store.

The NBI said Perez tried to evade the investigators after he noticed the NBI agents before he could pick up the money. The former councilor tried to walk away, but he was collared by the NBI personnel.

He was subjected to inquest proceedings last Monday, February 20, said lawyer Bernard Dela Cruz of NBI-Samar.

The NBI also submitted pieces of evidences -- photos, videos, affidavits, copy of text messages and recovered documents -- to the court.

As of Wednesday afternoon, February 22, the NBI was still conducting manhunt operations against Ramos.

Based on the charge sheets, Ramos and Perez are facing two counts of robbery/extortion and frustrated robbery/extortion try as defined under Article 293 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.

The City Council had not released any statement yet on the extortion try and on Ramos's plunder complaint, which was received by Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente on January 18. (SunStar Philippines)