An Ombudsman investigator, cousin lawyer arrested for bribery and extortion

A graft investigator and his lawyer cousing was busted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) from an entrapment operation.

The suspects were identified by NBI Director Dante Gierran as Leonardo Nicolas, who worked for the Ombudsman as a Senior Graft Investigator while his cousin, lawyer Isagani Nicolas who is a labor arbiter of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

Suspects were trying to extort P3 million from Amada Espino Jr., Pangasinan Representative, and his son Bugallon town Mayor Jumell Anthony Espino in exchange for the dismissal of cases against the public officials.

The two were nabbed by the NBI-Special Task Force (STF) in an entrapment operation last Friday after at a hotel in Lingayen, Pangasinan.

The operation was joined by representatives of the Ombudsman's office. They confirmed that the documents presented by Leonard to the emissary of Espino and provincial accountant Arturo Soriano have fake signatures.

Suspects are currently detained in Metro Manila.

According to Geraldine Baniqued, provincial legal officer, Leonard was the one who approached her in May, offering help to Espino's case issued from the Commission on Audit (COA). He identified himself as a lawyer from the Ombudsman.

"So I called Mayor Jumel and he said he could not recall a problem with the COA," Baniqued said.

"The town was even awarded a Seal of Good Local Governance, which meant they did not have any notices of disallowance from COA," Baniqued said.

Curious to what Leonard meant with 'as long as they cooperated'. She agreed to meet him along with other Bugallon officials. During their meeting she said that the suspect insisted that he can help dismiss the case.

"When we asked him what he meant by cooperation, [Leonard] mentioned a price for each of the cases, which ran to about P1.35 million," she said.

"When I told Mayor Jumel about it … he said he did not commit any wrongdoing and told me to tell Leonard to just file the case," Baniqued said.

On June 14, another meeting was held between Isagani and Pangasinan Provincial Accountant Arturo Soriano. The suspect, Isagani, demanded P3 million from the legislator for the dismissal of his three pending cases before the Ombudsman.

The legislator sought NBI help after Soriano received a call last June 19 from Leonardo about the threat which would lead to the dismissal from service of the Espinos.

Suspects are facing charges of direct bribery and robbery extortion  under Article 210 and Article 293, respectively, of the Revised Penal Code; and violation of Section 7(d) in relation to Section 11 of Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Source: PTV, INQ