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Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday pushed for the immediate passage of the SIM card registration bill as he revealed that two men who tried to extort PHP60,000 from his office for a supposed political convention have been arrested.

Zubiri said he sought assistance from Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. Ronald Azurin Jr., after receiving a series of messages last Aug. 14 from individuals posing as Siquijor Governor Jake Vincent Villa and Board Member Abner Lomongo, asking for an amount for a supposed political convention.

In a personal call, Zubiri was able to confirm that Villa had no involvement in the matter.

“I have heard from some of my colleagues that they have been victim to similar schemes before, so I was determined to work with the PNP to put a stop to these guys,” the senator said.

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Azurin ordered Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Regional Field Unit National Capital Region to plan and conduct a police entrapment operation.

The entrapment operation was conducted the following day, Aug. 15 after the suspects agreed to meet one of Zubiri’s staff in Castillejos, Zambales, for the turnover of cash.

Arrested for robbery, extortion, estafa, and illegal possession of firearms were Bryan Ledesma, 23, and Danilo Guillermo, 46, both residents of Castillejos, Zambales.

“Our investigators discovered that Danilo Ledesma was previously arrested on illegal drugs charges last year in Castillejos, Zambales,” Azurin said in a statement.

The police also confiscated boodle money from the suspects, covered by one genuine marked PHP1,000 bill, as well as one .45-caliber pistol without a serial number, but with seven live ammunition, for which the suspects failed to present a license to possess and carry.

“I thank the PNP, particularly CIDG-RFU NCR, for leading the operation, as well as Southern DFU CIDG, and the Castillejos Police Station, Zambales PPO, where the suspects were brought,” Zubiri said.

Azurin, meanwhile, commended the CIDG for its immediate action as he reminds other government officials and employees to be wary of such modus.

“Always coordinate with authorities so we can verify these reports and assist you,” he said.

With regard to his proposed SIM card measure, Zubiri said: “Bilang senador, itong nangyari sa akin ’yung isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit ko patuloy na isinusulong ang SIM Card Registration Bill. Marami na pong biktima ng ganitong mga modus, kaya ni-refile ko po talaga itong Senate Bill No. 82, or the SIM Card Registration Bill (As a senator, what happened to me is one of the reasons why I continue to push for the SIM Card Registration Bill. There have been many victims of this kind of modus, so I refiled Senate Bill No. 82, or the SIM Card Registration Bill). I know that it was vetoed by the last administration, but I am hopeful that we can pass it this Congress.” (with a report from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)

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