MANILA - Charlie ‘Atong’ Ang, a co-accused of former President Joseph Estrada in his plunder case, quietly regained his freedom last month after serving a two-year probation for pleading guilty to a lesser offense of corruption of public officials.
In a single-page order dated May 28, 2009, the Sandiganbayan Special Division formally declared Ang’s probation terminated and gave him "final discharge" based on favorable recommendations from his Parole Officer Romeo Cachin and Quezon City Probation and Parole Office chief Ceres Añonuevo.
“All civil rights lost or suspended on account of his conviction are hereby restored. The Hold Departure Order issued on April 25, 2005 against Charlie ‘Atong’ Ang y Tiu Hay in this case is ordered lifted,” the court order said.
The order was signed by Associate Justices Rodolfo Ponferrada, Norberto Gerladez and Francisco Villaruz, special division chairman.
Lawyer Ruth Castelo, counsel for Ang, said Ang celebrated his release from probation by holding a small gathering with members of his family in his own house.
“He has complied with the conditions of his probation. He is (now) a freeman. He was very happy,” the lawyer said.
Also Sunday, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) furnished a copy of its directive dated June 19, 2009 formally lifting the hold order on Ang’s travels abroad.
Ang was placed under two-year probation starting May 25, 2007 in lieu of a six-year jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to a lesser crime of corruption of public officials in relation to indirect bribery.
In his plea bargain deal with prosecutors, Ang admitted his involvement in the illegal diversion of P130 million tobacco excise tax earmarked for the province of Ilocos Sur, corroborating the testimony of former Ilocos Norte Gov. Luis ‘Chavit’ Singson, star witness for the prosecution in Estrada’s plunder trial.
Singson testified that he and Ang delivered the money to the residence of Estrada at no. 1 Polk Street in North Greenhills, San Juan in late 1998.
As part of his plea bargain, Ang returned to the government the P25 million he admitted skimming off the P130 million before the funds were delivered to Estrada.