Erap: Unmask group behind protection racket on Recto

The Daily Tribune| Written by: Pat C. Santos| August 11, 2016


Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada has ordered an investigation into reports that unscrupulous individuals have long been using his name to collect millions of pesos in protection fees from vegetable truckers and dealers in Divisoria Market.

Estrada was enraged after a group of vegetable traders told him they each pay P2,800 every week to this group to be able to use a portion of Recto Avenue to unload their cargoes.

They said this has been going on since the 80s.

“My name and reputation are being destroyed here. Matagal na pala ‘to. It’s been there since the time of former Mayors Lito Atienza and Alfredo Lim,” the mayor said as he called on the vendors and vegetable dealers to name those mulcting money from them.

“My office is always open to anyone,” he added.

Estrada ordered Senior Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo, deputy director for operations of the Manila Police District, and Che Borromeo, head of Task Force Manila, to look into the vendors’ claims.

He gave Pedrozo and Borromeo one week to identify every member of the extortion gang and those backing them up.

“I always tell everyone not to oppress the poor and those earning a living because they are already poor and we must help them,” Estrada said of the protection racket on Recto and Divisoria.

During a meeting with Estrada, vegetable dealers, most of whom were from Benguet, claimed they shell out P80 a day for a bogus “business permit” and P300 “intelligence fee,” aside from the weekly P2,800 fee.

In return, they are allowed to park unhampered along C. M. Recto Avenue leading to Divisoria Market to unload their cargoes.

But since last week, the Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau (MTPB), as directed by Estrada, prohibited the vegetable dealers from traversing Recto Avenue; they were advised instead to use the side streets so as not to disrupt traffic flow.

This was an offshoot of the series of road clearing operations in Divisoria and other areas in Manila.

Dennis Alcoreza, head of the MTPB, said about 20 to 30 vegetable trucks from Benguet, Baguio and other provinces unload their cargoes along the subject portion of Recto Avenue every night, disrupting traffic flow.

Worse, the vegetable dealers leave their mounds of trash, mostly vegetable peelings and leftovers, in the street which the city government spends so much time and effort collecting, he said, adding the vegetable traders leave behind 16 truckloads of garbage in the street every day.