Abalos to fire extinguisher ‘extortionists’

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. on Sunday warned he will fire Bureau of Fire Protection personnel found selling or requiring a specific brand of fire extinguisher as a prerequisite for the issuance of Fire Safety Inspection Certificate.

Talagang tatanggalin ko ang mga ‘yan. Hindi pupuwedeng (selling fire extinguishers) in exchange for a permit (I will certainly remove them. Selling fire extinguishers in exchange for a permit is prohibited),” Abalos said.

“Meron na akong memorandum. Ire-reiterate ko ‘yan. (I already have a memorandum, I will reiterate that),” he added.

In a memorandum dated 13 September, Abalos stressed that the processing of business permits should be strictly based on the existing government rules and regulations.

Section of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9114, otherwise known as “The Fire Code of the Philippines,” states that abuse of authority in the performance of duty through acts of corruption and other unethical practices shall be grounds for administrative sanctions that may be punishable by reprimand, suspension or removal at the discretion of the disciplining authority, depending on the gravity of the offense.

Abalos told the public, particularly the business sector, to immediately report to the DILG any corrupt acts of BFP men or their cohorts like soliciting favors, monetary or otherwise, or selling fire extinguishers to get their permits processed expeditiously.

Abalos’ warning follows his meeting with the business sector in a recent “Go Negosyo Summit” when the issue cropped up.

Meanwhile, an operative of the Criminal Investigation and Detection posing as representative of a BFP official and his cohort were arrested after soliciting money from a sponsor for a non-existent shoot fest in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Henry Halaghay and Joben Brian Gutierrez were arrested during an entrapment operation at Southville 8B Phase 2, Barangay San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal last 6 October, CIDG Director Brig. Gen. Ronald Lee said.

According to the victim, one of the suspects introduced himself as the emissary of Fire Chief Supt. Roderick Aguto, Regional Director of BFP R3, and asked for P30,000 to sponsor the firing competition.

After sending the money through Palawan Express Padala, the victim learned from the BFP official that the suspect was not his emissary and he did not know him.

When the suspect phoned the complainant again and asked for more money, an entrapment was set up. As the suspect was claiming the sent money at a Palawan Express Padala branch, CIDG operatives pounced on him.

The police also ran after and arrested the other suspect who was nearby and tried to walk away. He yielded a piece of paper bearing the Palawan Express tracking number as a passcode for claiming the money.

Halaghay admitted to being the mastermind of the scam. He is the alleged leader of the Halaghay Criminal Group which was allegedly involved in gun running, syndicated estafa, and robbery-extortion in Rodriguez, Rizal.

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