National Museum employees nabbed for alleged extortion

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 19) — An entrapment operation on Monday led to the arrest of two officials of the National Museum who allegedly extorted ₱120,000 from a person applying for treasure hunting permits.

Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica said their office has been receiving reports since July against Ernesto B. Toribio Jr., head of the museum's treasure hunting section, and Deputy Director General Angelo P. Bautista.

Belgica added the National Musem has no clear procedures on the acquisition of licenses and permits. This, he said, can lead to bribery from certain officials.

He said the PACC will be conducting further investigations on how the National Museum issues permits.

"Tuwing walang malinaw na requirement at magulo ang requirement [As long as there are no clear requirements, and the process is confusing], that’s what breeds corruption — 'yun ang [that is is the] birthing ground ng [of] corruption." said Belgica.

Belgica said fees for the permits usually amount to around ₱3,000 each.

One of those arrested, Toribio, denied the charges, saying that what they did was not illegal and permits for treasure hunting cost hundreds of thousands of pesos.

According to the National Museum, fees for treasure hunting activities range from ₱3,000 for small scale activities (less than one hectare), ₱5,000 for medium scale private/commercial area, and ₱10,000 for large scale activities if the area is one hectare or more of both private/commercial and public land. All applications should be accompanied by documents stating who the treasure hunters would be partnering with, a detailed description of the site, as well as financial statements.

All applications are subject to approval, and if the application is granted, the permit is valid for a year with a possible one-time extension of another year.

According to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), what Toribio and Bautista did was bribery and extortion, a violation of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The National Museum has yet to respond to the issue and the allegations of the PACC.