MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim on Monday said he will resign from his post if it is proven that he ordered the arrest of Vice Mayor Isko Moreno last Saturday over illegal gambling charges.
During Monday's flag ceremony at the Manila City Hall, Lim promised to resign if Moreno's allegation is proven true. Manila's "Dirty Harry" also challenged Moreno to resign if the allegation is found to the contrary.
At a press conference, Lim asked Supt. Ricardo Layug, Manila Police District Station 3 commander, if he ordered him to arrest Moreno and the councilors.
"May inutos ba ako sa iyo na arestuhin mo si vice mayor at limang konsehal?" Lim asked Layug in front of reporters.
"Wala po sir, wala pong nag-utos sa akin," Layug responded. He said police officers only responded to a complaint, and that Moreno even provoked the police officers to arrest him by ordering the bingo draw to proceed.
"Pagdating ni vice mayor, sabi niya itutuloy ang bingo, at titignan namin kung huhulhin namin o hindi. Sabi niya, 'O colonel, hulihin mo na ako.' Sabi ko, 'Sir ibola niyo, nang ma-consummate.' [Ibinola at lumabas] sa letrang N-44, iyon na po, consummated na po [ang krimen]. Nagkaroon na po ng kaguluhan," Layug said.
Lim also posed the same question to another police officer, Chief Inspector Eduardo Morata, who replied: "Sa totoo lang po, kahit ako po wala naman akong number ni mayor. Wala din pong nag-utos sa akin o tumawag sa akin na sabihin na si mayor kinausap ako. 'Yun pong mga insidente na nangyari, base sa tawag sa amin kaya nag-responde. Lahat ng aksyon na ginawa ko, ini-inform ko ang commander ko."
Morata also claimed that he was hit by former President and Manila mayoralty candidate Joseph Estrada during the time Moreno was detained.
"Sabi ko sir, wag naman po, nasasaktan po ako. Ginagalang ko po kayo," said Morata, adding that Estrada threatened to remove him and his fellow policemen from the job within three months in case he wins against Lim.
While he laments what happened, Morata said he is not planning to file charges against Estrada so as not to be accused of being used by the latter's political rivals.
Moreno denied the charges against Estrada, however. At the "Kapihan sa Diamond" on Monday, he said: "Gusto ko pong malaman ninyo, nakalimutan ninyo: Kayo po ang nanakit sa amin. Huwag niyo pong babaliktarin ang storya. Huwag po kayong mag-planting of evidence."
No less than the prosecutors said there was no reason to detain him and his colleagues, he said. In fact, the lady councilors also arrested alongside him were the ones who were physically hurt, he added.
Lim said it was already around 7 p.m. when he learned of what happened to Moreno and his allies. He said he was at an inaugural activity at the time the scuffle happened.
"Mag-aalas-siyete na doon ko lang nabalitaan na may nangyari pala doon sa Tambunting. Kino-contact ko si [Manila Police District director] Gen. Alex Gutierrez, ang tagal bago ko ma-contact. O yun nga, ni-report niya sa akin, kamukha rin ng ni-report ni Col. Layug," he said.
Moreno has described his arrest as political harassment since he is Estrada's running-mate under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
"Hindi niyo pwedeng ituloy yan. May order sa amin sa itaas, bawal iyan," Moreno quoted the arresting police officers as saying. "Tumingin naman ako sa itaas, langit lang nakita ko."
In an earlier interview with radio dzMM, Moreno insisted that he and councilors Joel Chua, Maria Asuncion "RE" Fugoso, Ernesto "Jong" Isip, Yul Servo Nieto and Let-Let Zarcal did not violate any law on illegal gambling.
Citing Presidential Decree 1602, Moreno argues that the "wager" component was not met in the game where some 2,000 residents supposedly participated.
"Kapag nag-benta ka ng card tapos magpapa-premyo, tapos wala kang permiso sa Pagcor, bawal ho iyon," he said.
"Wala namang taya. Tinanong ko ang taong-bayan: 'Sino sa inyo tumaya?' Nagsigawan ang mga tao: 'Wala! Walang taya rito.'"
Moreno also argued that his camp did not violate any election law, even as he admitted that the bingo cards bore his name and those of his fellow candidates in the May 2013 polls.
"Kung may lantarang violation ng Omnibus Election Code, dapat iyun ang [isinampa] nila," Moreno said. "There is no such thing as premature campaigning, walang ganoon."
Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes backed Moreno's position, saying no poll law violation was committed since the campaign period has not yet started.
Moreno claimed that he was never arrested during the five years that he has been conducting the bingo activity.
"Iyan ay nangyayari na sa limang taon. Eh nung napaiba ang kulay namin, bawal na," he said.
Moreno and the councilors were released on Sunday supposedly due to lack of evidence.
Lim, for his part, said Moreno and the five councilors are not yet absolved of the criminal charges.
He said his erstwhile political ally was only freed while a preliminary investigation is still ongoing.
Lim also belied Moreno's claim that he condoned the bingo activity when they were still allies. He believes Moreno only sponsored the game to attract potential voters.
He added that he is standing behind the city's policemen amid charges of abuse. - with a report from Noel Alamar, dzMM