MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino has ordered an in-depth investigation into allegations that Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr. earned nearly P1 billion in jueteng payola in the past 9 years, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said Friday.
Malacañang, in a press statement, confirmed this following the filing of a plunder complaint against Espino.
"The President has directed Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Mar Roxas to build a strong case and ensure the safety of the witnesses who will testify against jueteng operations and the alleged involvement of Governor Espino in the Province of Pangasinan,'' the Office of the Press Secretary said.
"We are determined to pursue this case to its logical end under the rule of law and should serve as a warning to syndicates and coddlers of illegal gambling operations to stop or be stopped," it added.
Roxas allayed concerns regarding possible "whitewash" in the case.
He said police officers in Pangasinan will be reshuffled to determine their culpability.
A certain police Senior Supt. Wilson Lopez has alleged served as as Espino's go-between and jueteng collector, according to disclosures made during a press conference at Camp Crame wherein Bugallon, Pangasinan Mayor Rodrigo Orduña aired the allegation against the governor.
Orduna also filed a plunder case against Espino before the Ombudsman, and presented as evidence his and Barangay Chairman Fernando Alimagno Alimagno's sworn statements detailing their role and association with Espino in allegedly running jueteng in Pangasinan.
"These are documented, actionable complaints. 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," Roxas said.
"I advise Governor Espino to get a good lawyer," Roxas said.
He said investigation of Espino's case will be made through several applicable laws including the Anti-Graft Law, the Anti-Money Laundering Act and the Plunder Law or Republic Act 7080.
"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."
Espino has denied the allegations.
In his sworn statement, Orduna claimed that he personally handed to Espino some P2.5 million every week for several years since Espino became Pangasinan governor.
He said Espino used to receive a smaller amount of P750,000 weekly when he was still only a congressman in the province.
Roxas said Orduna, Alimagno, and their families will be taken under the care of religious organizations pending their inclusion in the government's witness protection program.