By Ruel Camba, Examiner Newspaper
DAGUPAN CITY— A group of veteran newsmen met here yesterday to map strategies on how to unmask public officials who received jueteng payola.
The meeting, held at an eatery along Arellano Street, was an offshoot of an expose made by Northerm Watch columnist Mortz Ortigoza alleging that most members of the Sangguniang Panglalawigan were receiving jueteng payola which they immediately denied.
Among those in the meeting were Ruben Rivera (Northern Mirror), Jun Velasco (Sunday Punch and Manila Bulletin), Ruel Camba and Alex Tulao (Regional Examiner), and Manuel Celzo (DZXL-Manila).
In his column, Ortigoza said most SP members were receiving P40,000 a month.
Ortigoza said he based his allegation on a conversation with Board Member Danilo Uy who claimed he rejected his share of jueteng payola in the presence of other mediamen.
“I was with at least two other newsmen when BM Uy made the claim,” Ortigoza said, adding that his companions were willing to testify should the libel case against him prosper.
The media group threw their support to Ortigoza even as they urged the authorities to provide him security as motorcycle-riding men have been seen tailing him.
They surmised that some jueteng lords and their supporters in Pangasinan are out to block the entry of the Loterya ng Bayan (LNB) which is being pushed by at least four members of the House of Representatives from the province.
Ortigoza’s claim that many public officials, including SP members, were receiving jueteng payola was also corroborated by the director of Region I Medical Center, Dr. Roland Mejia.
Mejia said he had once a patient who operated jueteng and the latter told him that many Pangasinan officials used to receive jueteng payola.
This is the reason why jueteng continues to thrive in Pangasinan and elsewhere, Mejia said, adding that he supports the Loterya ng Bayan which is being operated by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
“We have many hospital patients who are beneficiaries of PCSO,” he said.
Aside from Mejia and several newsmen, Ortigoza also found support from businessman Rosendo So who is an anti-jueteng advocate.
So, founding chairman of Abono Partylist, said he will convince some friends, including those in media, to stand as witnesses to corroborate Ortigoza’s story.
Bince Jr. said most members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan have expressed their desire to file a libel suit individually or as a group against Ortigoza and Northern Watch publisher Yolanda Fuertes.
Bince said they found the item in Ortigoza’s column alleging that most SP members received P40,000 a month from jueteng, “malicious”.
Bince, a lawyer, said that their colleague, Board Member Uy, from whom Ortigoza quoted the alleged statement, manifested in their last session that he never said those words attributed to him by the columnist.
Vice Governor Jose Ferdinand Calimlim, SP presiding officer, was first to react on Ortigoza’s column, saying there was no truth to this, branding the same as malicious and just hearsay.
Ortigoza said in a radio interview that it was unfortunate that Uy denied his statement but said he had some media men with him when Uy allegedly made the supposedly offensive claim.
Bince said not only Calimlim is filing the libel suit but also all SP members who were badly offended by Ortigoza’s alleged malicious column.
The issue surfaced when the SP tackled possible moves to thwart the operation of PCSO’s “Loterya ng Bayan” (LnB) in Pangasinan.
Meanwhile, at some fora recently many media men corraborated what Ortigoza has alleged that BM Uy uttered those words on the payola. They were Rivera, Ronel de Vera (Pangasinan Reports), Vir Maganes (Northern Watch), Vierna Beltran (Bombo Radyo), Cory Bactad, and others who asked anonymity in preparation for their being a witness incase the written slander case is filled by the Provincial Board.