Ronnie Tiotuico, director of the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Central Luzon, said over the weekend that this was the essence of a memorandum jointly issued recently by Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan and this city’s police director, Senior Supt. Danny Bautista upon the recommendation of former. The memorandum was addressed to “all police stations and unit commanders” of the local police.
“The memorandum dated last Sept. 2 was tilted ‘Police Operations Related to Foreign Nationals’ and it directed all police station and unit commanders in the city to immediately stop victimizing foreign national (s) allegedly involved in illegal drugs and sex exploitation of minors,” Tiotuico said.
This city has remained a favorite destination of foreign nationals from the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia who often either land at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) at the Clark freeport here, or skip Metro Manila and take buses or taxis to this city immediately after landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Tiotuico said the memorandum was an offshoot of a forum held by members of the Hotels and Restaurants Association of Pampanga (HARP), led by its president Jim Dale of Hotel la Casa, with Senior Superintedent Gemma Vinluan of the Angeles City Police Office (ACPO) as resource person.
During the forum, members of HARP brought to Vinluan’s attention nagging reports of foreign tourists and expatriates in this city being framed up by “criminal elements pretending to be protectors of the law” who “use women and children in their nefarious activities.”
“It was revealed that foreign tourists staying in hotels are arrested without any warrant on the pretext that they are caught in the act of molesting children or exploiting minors, or involved in illegal drugs, only to fall prey to extortion from criminal elements,” Tiotuico said.
Such frame up ploys allegedly involving local police have been circulating in this city for years. Many of the foreign victims reportedly opted to fly out of the country after paying up, without filing any formal complaint for fear of their safety. A few of those who chose to file charges end up being jailed.
Reports have it that in some cases, the parents are in cahoots with some cops in using their underaged children as decoys offered as of legal age to pleasure-seeking tourists. Once in a hotel or motel room, the minor sends text messages to her parents on when to alert the police to barge in so that the foreigner is caught in a situation that could boost a sexual exploitation case against him.
In other cases, illegal drugs are planted on foreigners for purposes of extortion, HARP members said.
Tiotuico said the memorandum directed all police station heads in this city “to seek clearance and approval from this (city police director’s) office prior to the conduct of police operations involving foreign nationals in any circumstances and events in your respective areas of responsibility, thru the fastest means of communication.”
The memorandum also allows “all owners or managers of any establishments where (police operations) happened or where the suspect or suspects could be located or arrested to call the attention of the city police director and find out if such operation is authorized.”
“Any police personnel who violates the directive shall automatically be subjected to pre-charge evaluation by his or her station or unit commander and be given corresponding administrative sanctions,” the memorandum also said.
Dale and other members of HARP said they are set to issue a board resolution thanking Pamintuan and the local police for issuing the memorandum.
Pamintuan vowed to stop all the alleged extorion ploys as soon as possible. “I want Angeles to be a safe haven for both expatriates and the many foreign and domestic tourists who continue to visit our city and thus boost the local economy,” he said.
Pamintuan also all hotels, restaurants and other tourism-oriented establishments in the city to become members of HARP which, he noted, could be a venue for them to ventilate various issues and concerns needing the response of the city government.