Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pangasinan governor linked to jueteng sued for plunder, Espino denies charges

By: Abigail Kwok,

MANILA, Philippines -- Pangasinan
Governor Amado Espino Jr. has been charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman Friday over his alleged involvement in the illegal numbers game "jueteng." The charges were filed by Mayor Rodrigo Orduna of Bugallon town, who claimed Espino was on the take from jueteng operators. But Espino denied the accusation. “That’s an old issue , nasagot ko iyan lahat [I’ve already answered everything], the governor said at a press conference in Pangasinan on Friday. "I am denying na may tinanggap ako diyan sa jai-alai na iyan o sa jueteng ngayon kung meron man sa Pangasinan," he added. [I am denying that I received something from jai-alai or jueteng if ever there are in Pangasinan.] Orduna made the accusations against Espino at a press conference in Camp Crame, Quezon City earlier in the day where he was joined by Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II. Also with him was Fernando Alimagno alias 'Boy Bata,' a barangay captain of Candelaria, Quezon.
 In his sworn statement, Orduna described Espino as the "big boss" of jueteng in Pangasinan Aside from himself and Alimagno, Orduna said Espino had also worked with a certain Lito Millora and Bong Cayabyab. Orduna said the governor had received between P800-900 million in jueteng payoffs over the past 10 years. Jueteng trail Orduna said his relationship with Espino started in 2001, when the latter was running for a congressional seat in Pangasinan and sought his support.
 During his stint in Congress, Espino allegedly ordered Orduna to collect protection money from jueteng operators in Pangasinan, including a certain Romy Lahara. When Orduna met with the operators, they agreed to give Espino P3 million a month divided into four installments of P750,000 a week.
The payoffs were made every Saturday, supposedly on Espino's request. "May mga pagkakataon na sa bahay niya ako nagdadala ng pera, at mayroon din namang okasyon na idinideposito ko ito sa kanyang account sa Security Bank, Dagupan branch, para mapondohan kung mayroon siya na inisyu na tseke (There were times I would take the money to his house, and there were occasions I deposited it in his account at the Security Bank, Dagupan branch, to fund the checks he issued)," Orduna said in his statement.
 When Espino became governor in 2007, his take allegedly increased to P10 million monthly, or P2.5 million every Saturday, though this went up during months with five Saturdays. "Hindi po puwedeng ma-delay ang pagbibigay ng pera kay Gob. Espino. Pero dahil siya ang Big Boss,puwede pong mapaaga o maging advance ang paghahatid sa kanya ng pera (The delivery of money to Gov. Espino could never be delayed. But because he was the Big Boss, it could be advanced)," Orduna said. Campaign fund Orduna claimed that during the 2010 presidential elections, Espino received an additional P2.5 million monthly for his "campaign fund" and was even angered when he stopped receiving the additional amount after the election season.
 The mayor said a police Superintendent Wilson Lopez, whom he described as Espino's godson, acted as a jueteng collector when he was intelligence officer in Pangasinan. The revelation prompted PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome to order the relief of Lopez and his transfer to Camp Crame for investigation. Orduna did not spare Manila-based police officers, claiming P825,000 in jueteng money was delivered to Camp Crame every month for distribution to officials on the take. For his part, Alimagno claimed journalists from Metro Manila and the provinces also got jueteng payoffs.
However, he claimed he could not name them as they were assigned aliases. Jueteng operations in Pangasinan stopped in 2010 when Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who was also at the press conference, went public against the illegal numbers racket. In 2011, jueteng operators in the province shifted to jai-alai, a similary illegal racket Orduna claimed was run by Charlie "Atong" And and from which Espino allegedly got P8 million monthly. Espino dismissed the accusations made by Orduna and Alimagno , saying their claims were "politically motivated."
 Espino also denied he was receiving about P8 million monthly from Charlie "Atong" Ang, through jai alai which was allegedly being used as a front for jueteng operations in the province. "Wala akong ibinigay na permit kay Mr. Charlie Ang so how can I ask anything from him?" Espino said. "Wala akong tinatanggap na kahit ano man iyan." [I did not give permit to Mr. Charlie Ang so how can I ask anything from him? I did not receive anything.]
 In a subsequent statement, Roxas described Orduna's revelations as “documented” and “actionable.” “We have two insiders who have come out in the open, and have submitted sworn statements, which will be the basis of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to conduct a thorough investigation,” he said. “With my background in finance, I know that when money flows, there will be a trail. We will use the anti-money laundering law para makita ang money trail,” he said. “As they say, we will follow the money.” Politics? Orduna said he would not be surprised if people would attribute his accusations against Espino to the May 2013 elections. "Siguro pag sinabi kong hindi ito sa pulitika baka di rin kayo maniwala pero sa totoo lang po matagal ko nang pinag-isipan ito. Nagkataon lang na ngayon lang ako nagkaroon ng lakas ng loob (Maybe if I said this was not motivated by politics you will not believe me but the truth is I have long been thinking of this. It is only now that I found the courage to do so)," Orduna said.
 But Roxas said Orduna's motives were not important. 'Find a good lawyer' At the press conference, Roxas said: "Matapos ito tatawagan ko si Gov. Espino ... 'kumuha po kayo ng mahusay na abogado dahil hindi ito madadaan sa pulitika, sa kampihan. Dadaan ito sa legal process na tama (After this I will call up Gov. Espinoa ... 'get a good lawyer because this cannot be solved through politics or comradeship. This will pass through the right legal process')'." At the same time, the statement from Roxas' office said the expose of Orduna, “a self confessed jueteng operative," followed a falling between the mayor and Alimagno, a "notorious jueteng financier" in his province, on one hand, and Espino, on the other. Roxas promised Orduna his support. “Lalo na at alam kong inilagay niya ang kanyang sarili at ang kanyang pamilya sa peligro, kaya naman gagamitin ko ang kapangyarihan ng aking tanggapan sang-ayon sa batas upang imbestigahan ang usaping ito at tutukan ito hanggang katapusan (Especially since I know he put himself and his family in danger, I will use the powers of my office in accordance with law to investigate this matter and stay with it to its conclusion),” Roxas said.
 The statement from Roxas’ office also said he had ordered the reshuffling of police personnel in Pangasinan to prevent any whitewash. Roxas said he would work for Orduna and Alimagno to be enrolled in the Witness Protection Program. While this is being worked on, he said he would assign a security detail to the two, who will be given "religious sanctuary" in the meantime.

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