Palace: Probe on Pangasinan gov for jueteng will be free from politics
Malacañang on Saturday insisted that the probe on Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr. over his alleged links to the illegal but popular numbers game jueteng will be free from politics.
On government-run dzRB radio, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said, “We will pursue the investigation to its logical end. Let's not mix politics to the issue. In the past, even members of the ruling Liberal Party had been held accountable over other irregularities.”
Valte noted that even certain political allies of President Benigno Aquino III had been held accountable over other irregularities in the past.
She cited the case of Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co, who she said had been charged with syndicated estafa before the Department of Justice.
Co, reportedly running for Congress in the May 2013 polls, had been linked to the multibillion-peso swindling scam involving Aman Futures Group Philippines Inc.
“Pagadian Mayor Co was linked to the Aman Futures scam yet was charged,” Valte said, adding, “If I'm not mistaken, he is aligned with the LP (Liberal Party).”
“So this investigation on jueteng has no political strings, at least on the side of the executive,” Valte continued.
On Friday, Mayor Rodrigo Orduña of Bugallon, Pangasinan filed at the Office of the Ombudsman a plunder case against Espino for allegedly earning around P800 million a year from jueteng.
Orduña alleged that Espina led the province's jueteng operations since becoming governor in 2007.
Orduña also claimed that he personally delivered P2.5 million in cash to the governor every Saturday as jueteng protection money.
However, also on Friday, Espino denied the allegations, saying the accusations against him were politically motivated.
For the gubernatorial post, reelectionist Espino is running against Alaminos Mayor Nani Braganza of LP, the political party of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
'We will connect facts'
Meanwhile, during a press conference at Camp Crame on Friday, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas also stated that his department will rely on facts and figures in the investigation against Espino .
“We will connect facts and figures para malaman kung sino ang dapat managot,” he said.
He noted that Orduña's affidavit “Either mapapatunayan or mapapabulaan lang yan.”
He also clarified that it was the first time that he met Orduña who attended the conference to fill-in media on the details of the jueteng operations in Pangasinan.
“Ngayon lang kami nagkakilala ni mayor,” Roxas who is part of the Liberal party said.
P900 million in a decade
Orduña claimed to serve as Espino’s jueteng bagman since 2001, and claimed that Espino allegedly received some P900 million in protection money from gambling operators..
The mayor also admitted that he was part of the jueteng operations but decided to rat out the governor because he felt that he was being used.
Orduña added that he was ready to face any punishment for being involved in the jueteng operations in Pangasinan.
When asked by GMA News Online whether he received any death threats, Orduña said he hadn't but claimed that he noticed suspicious men on motorbikes roaming near his home in November.
Fernando “Boy Bata” Alimagno, chairman of Baranggay Poblacion Candelario in Quezon, supported Orduña's statement, saying he personally turned over to the mayor the money allegedly given to Espino every Saturday.
However, in 2010, Espino and suspected gambling lord Charlie “Atong” Ang allegedly struck a deal for setting up jueteng operations in the province under the cover of jai alai.
During this time Espino's godson Senior Superintendent Wilson Lopez allegedly replaced Orduña as the governor's protection money collector.
Alimagno also alleged that P875,000 weekly was being sent to Camp Crame to keep the police force silent about the rampant jueteng operations in Pangasinan.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Nicanor Bartolome, who was also at the conference, did not comment about the allegations involving the protection money being sent to Crame.
However, he said Lopez has already been reassigned to a different district and will be recalled to Camp Crame to answer the allegations.
Bartolome also said the PNP has already assigned security personnel to guard Orduña and Alimagno who are now considered to be whistleblowers. - VVP, GMA News