>> Tuesday, September 28, 2010
BAGUIO CITY – Despite President Aquino’s order to stop jueteng and a Senate probe on the matter, operators of the illegal numbers game in Northern and Central Luzon still at it raking in money worth millions of pesos.
This, as politicians in the two areas mentioned by retired Bishop Oscar Cruz in the Senate as financiers or protectors of jueteng denied the former’s allegations.
Among those who denied allegations of the bishop were Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda , Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan and retired Philippine National Police intelligence chief Eugene Martin.
Gaming consultant Charlie “Ating” Ang, calling himself a legal gambling lord said he is into cockfighting and jai alai, which is legal in his area operation, the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Free Port.
Cruz, in his Senate testimony said government officials particularly from the national and local governments are receiving payolas from jueteng operators as “protection money” so their operations would go on unhampered.
Those given payolas on a weekly, every 15 days or monthly basis reportedly include some line agency directors and elective officials like governors, mayors, city councilors and provincial board members.
According to Cruz, jueteng operations thrive since law enforcement agencies like the police allow operations of the illegal numbers game in exchange for monetary considerations.
The list of the big names revealed by Cruz allegedly involved in jueteng included: Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno retired Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa, governors Lilia Pineda of Pampanga. Amado Espino of Pangasinan and Paul Dy of Isabela.
Others were Danny Soriano of Cagayan, retired Gen. Padilla of Pasay, Parañaque, Muntinlupa and San Pedro, Boy Jalandoni of Bacolod, a certain Eddie Fontanilla and Rey Cachuela
In Baguio, Domogan denied allegations of Cruz that he was inept, involved in corruption and a jueteng lord branding the bishop a liar .
Domogan said he was surprised and sad that he was included in Cruz’s list. “I do not gamble nor tolerate jueteng.” “Cruz should verify the information before going public.”
The mayor also claimed Cruz’s sources maybe politically motivated.
In a statement, Domogan said: “We welcome the conduct of an inquiry but we do not adhere to the fact that the inquiry is just being used by some quarters to ruin the reputation of the people who have tried their best to protect their names only to be tainted by scrupulous reports.
Domogan urged Cruz to substantiate his allegations, adding the retired bishop should have enough evidence and should file charges against those involved and not to use the same to advance the personal political interest of some quarters.
Meanwhile, Gen. Martin said, “Mayor Domogan and the officialdom of Baguio City are known anti-gambling advocates. Proof of this is the non existence of casinos or Small Town Lottery (STL) operations in the jurisdiction of the city. If I were an operator of jueteng in the city, they will be the first one to have denounced, condemned or castigated me and not somebody whose source of information is very dubious.”
Based on information reaching him even when he was in active service, Martin claimed the reason why Domogan’s name has been dragged into the purported list of gambling lords and jueteng protectors is that he never entertained or met with gambling operators because of his firm anti-gambling policy even when he was the city mayor from 1992 to 2001.
For his part, Martin disclosed that during his term as PNP intelligence chief, the PNP was able to file numerous cases against the Meridian, a gaming and amusement corporation allegedly owned by Charlie Atong Ang, one of the supposed sources of Cruz, for being an alleged front of illegal gambling.
According to Martin, the expose of Cruz against him and retired PNP chief Director-General Jesus A. Verzosa was the handy work of disgruntled gambling lords to get back at them for their relentless efforts to stop the illegal numbers game even to the extent of using Archbishop Cruz as their whistleblower to make it appear that such expose will be legitimate.
He urged his detractors to file charges against him before the proper forum and not use the Senate saying he was willing to answer such charges once these are filed in court.
Meridian has been applying to corner STL operations in various parts of Northern Luzon but the same was pinpointed as a front to justify the operation of illegal numbers game, particularly jueteng.
What surprised some sectors in the city is that well-known gambling lords in Northern Luzon were not included in the list of gambling lords and protectors of all forms of gambling when jueteng rampantly exists in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
In Lingayen, Pangasinan, Gov. Espino Jr., reacting to allegations of Cruz that he was involved in jueteng said, he had actually ordered the provincial police to crack down on jueteng.
He said, his directive came after President Aquino gave orders to PNP chief Director General Raul Bacalzo to stamp out the said illegal numbers game last week.
Espino directed Police Senior Supt. Rosueto Ricaforte, the new Pangasinan police director, to spare no one in the campaign, including local officials believed to be coddling gambling lords.
He urged Ricaforte to also mount a similar drive on all forms of illegal activities in the province.
The governor took a snide at allegations by his political detractors in the media that jueteng was driving the marginalized sectors of society to poverty.
In Pampanga, Gov. Pineda, who had been dubbed the “queen of jueteng” said if government should stop jueteng, then the government should find jobs for displaced workers.
Meanwhile, a close political ally of President Aquino in northern Luzon admitted last week their family was once behind the operations of jueteng in northern Cagayan province.
Former Cagayan third district Rep. Manuel Mamba claimed that except for Tuao town, their family’s hometown, the operations of illegal numbers game continued to persist almost throughout the province.
Mamba, the Liberal Party chairman of Cagayan, said their family used to be the operator of the illegal lottery in the province’s third district, particularly in their hometown from early 1980s to 1992.
However, since 1992, Mamba said that their family, who included Tuao town Mayor William Mamba, had totally cut any links to any form of illegal gambling.
A three-term congressman twice over, Mamba, who lost in the last gubernatorial race to incumbent Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio, said they were forced to operate jueteng within their political turf to block the entry of other operators from other areas.
Now a known anti-jueteng crusader, Mamba, one of the founding members of Archbishop Cruz’s Krusadang Ba yan Laban sa Jueteng, said that never during his last three congressional terms has jueteng set foot in his district, especially in their hometown.
But now that he is out as congressman, Mamba claimed that their hometown is the only jueteng-free area among the more than 20 Caga yan towns. – With reports from Charlie Lagasca, Dexter See, Kristynne Nalupa,George Trillo, Jennelyn Mondejar and Jerry Padilla