Pangasinan Rep. Espino urges Ombudsman to cleanse ranks

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — Pangasinan Fifth District Rep. Amado Espino Jr., also former governor, said the extortion attempts first on his youngest son, Bugallon Mayor Jumel Espino, and another on him by an employee of the Ombudsman with the help of his lawyer cousin should be enough reason for the Office of Ombudsman to cleanse its ranks.

This was after one Leonardo Nicolas Jr., an employee of the Ombudsman’s office and his cousin Atty. Isagani Nicolas, labor arbiter at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in Dagupan City, were caught in flagrante receiving more than P1 million marked and boodle money at 5:00 p.m. of July 21 at the function room of Capitol Resort Hotel.

The entrapment was set at the instance of Rep. Espino and his son Jumel who coordinated the matter with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) central office and the central office of the Ombudsman.

At a press conference Friday morning at the Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center, Rep. Leonardo called Leonardo Nicolas a “fraud” who introduced himself as a lawyer although he is not.

He identified Atty. Isagani Nicolas as the husband of her employee, Thelma, in Congress who had resigned out of shame after the incident.

He said the supposed complaint filed against Jumel and allegedly investigated by the Ombudsman and the supposed lifestyle check on him supposedly initiated by former Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza were both a fabrication.

Espino said in fairness to Braganza, who was his opponent in the 2010 election, he does not believe he had a hand in these fabrications.

He learned that he and Jumel were not the first persons victimized by Nicolas as there were other officials and employees in the provincial government that he and his cohorts contacted and fleeced from substantial amounts of money by telling them they have complaints filed against them before the Ombudsman.

Many of their victims who were nearing retirement reportedly gave in to the demand of Nicolas for money in return for “fixing” their alleged cases for fear of losing their retirement benefits.

In the case of Mayor Espino, he swore that he has no pending case before the Ombudsman, otherwise his town of Bugallon would not have received the Seal of Good Governance from the Department of Interior and Local Government, Provincial Legal Officer Baniqued said.

Baniqued saved the text message to her of Nicolas informing he could fix even the case on alleged black sand mining filed against the elder Espino.

But this all the more Rep. Espino made suspect that Nicolas was a fraud.

He said: “Fully aware that the black sand mining case referred to by Mr. Leo Nicolas has already been decided by the Office of the Ombudsman, and is therefore out of his jurisdiction–as it is already pending in the Sandiganbayan–I suspected that Mr. Leo Nicolas is a fraud.”

He said being a former police officer, he instructed Atty. Baniqued to keep the communication lines with Nicolas open with the end in view of facilitating an entrapment should he persist.

It was Pangasinan Provincial Accountant Arturo Soriano who met the Nicolas cousins and handed a brown envelope containing marked money and some boodle money.

But before he gave the envelope, Soriano first asked to read a supposed document worked out by Nicolas stating that the supposed cases of the Espinos were dismissed.

Then, NBI men who actually accompanied Soriano arrested the Nicolas cousins.

The cousins are now facing cases of Violation of Republic Act No. 293 and RA 210 of the Revised Penal Code and RA 3029 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, aside from administrative cases. Leonardo Micua/