MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and 5 Manila councilors were arrested in Sta. Cruz, Manila on Saturday for allegedly being involved in an illegal gambling activity.
Among the councilors arrested were Joel Chua, Ernesto Isip Jr. and Ma. Asuncion Fugoso.
Moreno said he rushed to Tambunting St. after receiving a call from the councilors saying that they were being harassed by police at a bingo event.
The vice mayor said he spoke to police officers at the site and explained to them that what they were doing isn’t illegal.
The councilors continued with the event despite the police presence, and this led to their arrest.
“’Yung isang konsehal ko sinasakal ng pulis, binuhat ng isang pulis, eh inawat ko. Tapos nagkagulo na ang taong bayan, there are about 2,000 people in the area, bata at matanda. Syempre naawa ako, inawat ko sila. In the end, kaming lahat ang inaresto,” Moreno told ANC’s “Prime News”.
MPD station 3 commander Supt. Ricardo Layug said Moreno’s group may face charges of illegal gambling and obstruction.
“’Yung violation of PD1602 o illegal gambling at obstruction dahil nag-conduct sila ng activity doon without securing the necessary permit,” Layug told dzMM.
Moreno and the councilors were brought to the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 3 and are currently detained in a holding room.
Former President Joseph Estrada went to the MPD station immediately after their arrest to check on Moreno, his runningmate in the 2013 elections.
Estrada suspects that the incident was politically-motivated.
“Siguro may pulitika ito, may order mula sa itaas,” he told dzMM.
Estrada said they are planning to file charges against Manila police for illegal arrest.
“Wala silang kasong maipa-file, kami ang magpa-file ng kaso for illegal arrest,” he said.
Moreno described the incident as a form of political harassment, saying the alleged harassment began when he and some of the Manila councilors switched parties.
Moreno joined the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino political party of Estrada, a rival of incumbent Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim in the 2013 elections.
“Noong lumipat kami ng partido, lahat bawal na. We have been doing this for the past 5 years, every week,” said Moreno.
“This is just a peaceful assembly. Kaya pinapaliwanag ko sa kanila, bakit kayo sumusunod sa nakakataas sa inyo na mali naman ang inuutos sa inyo…Ito na maliwanag na political harassment lang,” he added.
Moreno also said the timing of the arrest was suspect.
“Ang ganda ng timing. Sabado. Para pagna-inquest kami, hindi kami makakapag-piyansa, sa Lunes na kami lalaya. Eh kung kayo mag-iisip, talagang harassment na,” he said.
He also said some of the councilors sustained bruises in the incident.
“Dinakma kami eh, literally by force,” he said.
But Layug said he was merely trying to secure Moreno from the mob.
“May mga supporters kasi doon na hindi nila ma-kontrol, binabato kami. Kahit nga ako nabato pero pinilit kong i-secure si vice mayor. Siya ang una kong kinuha para hindi siya tamaan,” he said.
Lim defends Manila cops
Meanwhile, Mayor Lim defends the arresting officers.
“Eh kung akala niya na konsehal sila eh above the law sila, syempre 'pag lumabag ka sa batas, aaksyunan ng pulis. Unang una ‘yung sugal bawal ‘yun eh, kaya dapat bigyan ng komendasyon ‘yung mga pulis na ginampanan ang kanilang tungkulin,” he said.
Lim also denies that Moreno's arrest had anything to do with the upcoming Manila mayoral race.
Last week, two Manila councilors, Cristy Isip and Che Borromeo, were also injured when cops stopped a raffle in Paco. -- With a report from Ricky Velasco, dzMM; ANC