FOUR Highway Patrol Group (HPG) officers in Iligan City in Northern Mindanao were arrested Wednesday evening, March 7, for extortion.

Chief Inspector Jewel Nicanor, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Counter Intelligence Task Force (CITF), identified the arrested CITF personnel as Senior Inspector Rolando Rigat, chief of the Iligan City Highway Patrol Team (ICHPT); Senior Police Officer 2 Crisanto Bernardo; and HPG civilian auxiliary personnel Mac Harvey Abad and Sidney Cañete.

The four suspects underwent inquest proceedings on Thursday for robbery extortion charges.

Nicanor said the four officers were arrested in an entrapment operation which stemmed from complaints of motorists traversing Macapagal Highway in Iligan City, who reported that members of the ICHPT were extorting money from them in the guise of apprehending them for traffic violations.

During the entrapment operation, Nicanor said the four personnel received the 3,000 marked money. This was recovered in Rigat's comfort room located inside his office.

Nicanor said Rigat even tried to dispose of the cash.

He said small bills of different denominations amounting to P5,000, which were believed to be proceeds from their illegal activities, were also recovered from Rigat's drawer.

"Arrested personnel are now being processed in Iligan City Police Office for the filing of appropriate criminal and administrative cases," said Nicanor.

Senior Superintendent Leony Roy Ga, Iligan City Police Office director, said Abad and Cañete apprehended the driver of a Toyota Avanza. Then Bernardo allegedly handled the negotiation.

"Si Bernardo maoy una nag-negotiate. Ang duha ka civilian auxiliary maoy apil nagdakop pero ang hepe maoy natunulan atong panahona (Bernardo started the negotiation. The two civilian auxiliary personnel flagged down the vehicle. It was the chief who received the money)," Ga said.

Ga said these civilian auxiliary personnel are actually more aggressive and are used by the ICHPT officials in victimizing motorists.

ICHPT is composed of four personnel covering Iligan City and Lanao del Norte. The two were off duty during the operation.

Ga said the suspects usually position themselves at the boundary of Iligan City and Lugait, Misamis Oriental where they supposedly prey on drivers of trucking companies who seldom complained.

"Diha sila ga-standby sa hilit nga area dayon mangdakop. Gikasuko nako kay gakadalahig ang Iligan police kay pagtoo sa katawhan nga apil ang atong kapolisan diri kay pare-pareho man patrol car (They position themselves in a remote area when they do their illegal activity. It made me angry because the people think they are part of ICPO)," Ga said.

The ICPO chief said they have been monitoring the activities of the suspects particularly when Rigat, who hails from Manila, was detailed in Iligan City nearly a year ago.

Ga reminded his fellow policemen to take seriously the warning of President Rodrigo Duterte and PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa against involvement in unlawful activities.

"Kanunay ta nga gipa-remind nga magtinarong ug gipalangga sa atong presidente ug Chief PNP kay gidoble pa gani ang sweldo busa buhaton nato og tarong atong trabaho (We are always reminded to do our job. Our salary was even doubled so let's not engage in illegal activities)," Ga said. (SunStar Philippines and SunStar Cagayan de Oro)