Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, together with Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde, Presidential Anti-Corruption (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica and Congressman Arnulfo Fuentebella, held a press briefing on Thursday in Camp Crame in Quezon City. They revealed how two men tried to extort money from him and other public officials by pretending to be Cong. Fuentebella.
During the press briefing, Go said that suspects Dennis Jose Borbon and his accomplice, Edgar Bularan, have also victimized several other lawmakers before they sent him a message via the messaging app “Viber”, requesting for financial assistance.
Go also recounted how the two men initially got in touch with him and tried to extort money from him.
“Ginamit nila ‘yung Viber, may mukha ni Cong. Arnie (Fuentebella), pero iba ang number,” Go said. “Madami nang nabiktima itong mga nagpapanggap na ito.”
“Gabi ng Linggo, nag-Viber siya sa akin. Magaling. Sabi pa na talo ako sa Bicol (noong nakaraang eleksyon), bawi na lang ako daw sa susunod,” Go told the media.
“Maya-maya, humihingi na ng tulong kasi raw ang mga kabataan kailangan ng solicitation. Twenty-five thousand pesos daw ang kailangan,” he added.
Go, suspicious of the messages received, contacted the real Cong. Fuentebella Monday morning to confirm if he sent the messages.
“Napakadami pong nanloloko noon sa Malacañang. Hindi po tayo dapat pumayag magpaloko sa mga ganitong scam. Ngayon, tinawagan ko yung totoong Cong. Arnie, umaga ng Lunes. ’Di daw totoo ito at hindi siya nanghihingi ng pera,” he said.
To further investigate the matter, Go asked one of his staff to confirm if the account was real by depositing one peso in the account under the name “Dennis Jose P. Borbon” provided by the scammer.
“Nung nasa bangko na staff ko, nagdeposit ako, piso. Tinignan ko kung totoo ang account number,” he recalled.
Go then contacted one of the suspects, who was then still pretending to be Cong. Fuentebella, and jokingly told him to withdraw the money and use it to buy his coffin.
“Tinawagan ko siya (suspect). Sabi ko, i-withdraw niya kaagad ang pera. Excited siya. Sabi ko, ibili niya ng ataul, isukat niya ang sarili niya,” Go jokingly said.
“Sabi ko, probinsyano lang kami, pero di mo kami maloloko,” he added. “Dine-activate niya ‘yung Viber niya pagkatapos niya binaba ang tawag.”
Meanwhile, it has been found that the same people were tapped by opposition figures to run a smear campaign against Go and other administration figures during the campaign for the 2019 elections.
“Mas naging interesado ako dahil mas malalim pala ang taong ito. Inutusan din pala siya noong nakaraang eleksyon na siraan kami,” Go revealed.
Go added that through further investigation, authorities found out that opposition figures funded the culprits’ activities as he named former senators Bam Aquino and Antonio Trillanes, and Magdalo Congressman Gary Alejano who were behind the smear campaign against the administration.
Borbon, one of the suspects caught by the PNP, admitted that he personally knows Peter Joemel Advincula who was involved in the “Bikoy” videos. Borbon also admitted that the opposition camp through the staff of Sen. Bam Aquino contacted him and his group to conduct black propaganda against the Duterte administration and its allies.
“Way back nung election, lumapit sa akin yung chief of staff ni Bam Aquino at pinapatira yung mga kandidato ng (administrasyon nung nakaraang) eleksyon… Nagdedeposito sila ng 20k to 40k, iba pa ang galing kay Congressman Gary Alejano,” Borbon narrated.
“Isa po akong anti-administration blogger po, anti-Duterte blogger po… ‘yung mga alegasyon pong sinasabi ni Senator Christopher Lawrence Bong Go, totoo po ‘yun hindi ko naman po kinakaila ‘yun pero recap noong eleksyon ang .. and umaabot din ng mga 300,000 ‘yung engagement sa Facebook per week, ‘yung blog ko sa Facebook and lumapit sa akin itong… ni Mr. senator Bam Aquino na si former councilor Aries.. and ‘yun na nga po pinapatira sa akin lahat ng senatorial candidates ng administrasyon and then noong nagipit po ako dala rin po ng pangangailangan eh ina-access ko po ‘yung mga phone numbers ng mga Heads,” Borbon added.
“Actually ma’am, nag deposit po sila ng ranging 20k to 40k po per month. Ito nga po ‘yung binibigay nila congressman… and kilala ko rin po si Peter.. nagkaka-usap din po kami,” he further narrated when asked by reporters if he received any form of payment for the black propaganda operations.
When asked where Borbon got the phone numbers of legislators, the suspect answered, “… may mga phone numbers kasi minsan po nagtataka tayo, ‘yung mga phone numbers ninyo may mga dumadaan na advertisements ganyan ganyan hindi niyo naman alam kung kanino galing ‘yung number niyo. ‘yung mga number ninyo nabebenta po ‘yan sa dark web doon po namin na aaccess ‘yan doon po naming nakikita.”
Cong. Fuentebella, Cong. Mikee Romero, Cong. VG Lacson, Vice Governor Jolo Revilla and other officials victimized by the scam are set to file appropriate charges against the two arrested persons. In an interview, Cong. Fuentebella said that higher penalties for these scams are needed to curtail them.
“Magsasampa po tayo ng karampatang kaso para hindi na ito maulit. We have to stop these scams para wala nang maloko. Baka kailangan na taasan pa natin ‘yung penalties sa mga ganitong krimen na napakadaling gawin,” Cong. Fuentebella said.
“Imagine, in just a span of less than two weeks, allegedly 160 thousand pesos na ang nakuha nila. It’s time to review the penalties,” he added.
Meanwhile, Go appealed to the public to remain vigilant to avoid falling for these scams.
“Huwag po tayo papayag na maloko ng mga ganitong scams. Yung pera na pwede maitulong sa kapwa, napupunta sa mga manloloko. Kung may kahina-hinalang tao po kayo na kilala na nagsasagawa ng ganitong illegal activities, sabihan lang po natin ang mga kinauukulan,” Go advised the public.
Go, during the press briefing, also congratulated the PNP for catching the suspects. He also asked the assistance of the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group, through PNP Chief Albayalde, to probe the possible involvement of the suspects and other key opposition figures in the smear campaign done during the recent elections.