2 ‘collectors’ bare corruption in Manila’s public markets

Rey Galupo - The Philippine Star
2 �collectors� bare corruption in Manila�s public markets
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno questions Vilma Cortez and Jeffrie Solomon following their arrest yesterday for collecting payoffs from vendors at the Blumentritt market.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Two persons arrested for collecting payoffs from vendors in Blumentritt market yesterday exposed the extent of alleged corruption in Manila’s public markets.

Vilma Cortez, 48, and Jeffrie Solomon, 38, were apprehended by the Special Mayor’s Reaction Team, led by Maj. Rosalino Ibay, after receiving marked money from a police officer who posed as a vendor at around 8:45 a.m.

Cortez and Solomon introduced themselves as secretary and checker, respectively, of Bagong Maynila Development Corp., a firm allegedly accredited by the city government. Mayor Isko Moreno denied their claim.

Ibay said the suspects collected P20 to P30 three times a day from legitimate vendors and issued collection tickets not sanctioned by the city government.

During her arrest, Cortez questioned why she was being handcuffed “since her company had a contract with the city hall.”

She told police that the collection from Blumentritt market alone reaches millions of pesos weekly and she received P25,000 as her salary, excluding commissions.

Moreno said those behind the payoff collection scheme pose as city hall employees to sell orange umbrellas – former mayor Joseph Estrada’s color – to vendors in the city’s public markets and leased out stall space for as high as P15,000 per month.

“Now, these enterprising individuals are selling blue and white umbrellas, which is my color. For the last time, I’m telling you. Stop it,” he said.

He said while he pities the suspects, he would order the filing of charges of usurpation of authority, grave coercion and robbery extortion against them to set an example.

Moreno also promised to make similar arrests at all the public markets and sidewalks in the city.

Also yesterday, the mayor signed his first executive order for “all procurement and bidding activities, contract signings, official meetings of city officers” to be streamed live on Facebook or other social media platforms to curb corruption. – With Jose Rodel Clapano

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