MANILA, Philippines – A town mayor has filed a plunder complaint against Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino after accusing him of pocketing nearly P1 billion in jueteng payola in the past 9 years.
Espino, however, denied the accusations and said these were politically motivated.
In a press conference, Bugallon, Pangasinan Mayor Rodrigo "Ric" Orduña said he served as Espino’s bagman and personally delivered jueteng payola to the governor every week.
He confirmed that he, Espino and several others ran jueteng operations in Pangasinan.
"Kanina pong umaga, kami po ay naghain sa Office of the Ombudsman ng reklamo laban kay kasalukuyang governo ng lalawigan ng Pangasinan, kay Amado Espino, na kung saan siya ay kasama namin na nagpatakbo ng nasabing jueteng, ilegal na sugal sa lalawigan," the mayor said.
The mayor claimed Espino’s cut from jueteng proceeds amounted to P2.5 million weekly or about P10 million monthly.
He said he personally delivered the money to Espino at his office or his house.
“I am the one who personally gives it to him. I get it from the cashier and then prepare the cash in a shopping bag and bring it to Barangay Fortich in Bugallon. Sometimes, I bring it to his house in Bautista,” he said.
He said Espino's monthly take from jueteng totaled P10 million, or about P900 million in nine years.
Fernando "Boy Bata" Martinez, a barangay captain in Candelaria, Quezon province, backed Orduna’s claim.
For his part, Espino denied any involvement in the illegal numbers game.
He pointed out three things: first, he believes and is sure that the controversy is politically motivated in nature.
He said an alleged meeting between him and gambling personality Charlie Ang was facilitated by Orduña. He said he was still police provincial director when Orduña introduced him to Ang.
He said Ang was asking for help to get business permits for jai-alai operations in Pangasinan. He noted that only mayors can give out business permits and not police officials.
Espino said he had been advised by his lawyer not to say anything further as a plunder case has been filed before the Ombudsman.
During the press conference, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said he will call up Gov. Espino to inform him of the complaint.
“Tatawagan ko po si Gov. Espino ipaalam sa kanya ito. Sa ating media, ipapaalam ko po kay Gov. Espino na humuha po kayo ng mahusay na abugado dahil di po ito madadaan sa pulitika, di po ito madadaan sa kampihan o kakilala. Dadaan po ito sa legal na proseso na tama,” he said.
Roxas urged Espino to get a good lawyer because of the complaint.
He added that the Philippine National Police will recommend the reshuffling of policemen detailed in Pangasinan while the investigation is ongoing.
“Napagkasunduan namin over the next several days magre-rekomenda sila sa akin by Monday ng pag-reshuffle ng chief-of-police, as necessary, up to including the provincial director of Pangasinan,” he said.
In the press conference, the mayor said he had a falling-out with Espino because the governor was taking advantage of him.
“Dumarating din yung punto na nararamdaman natin na yung tinuturing nating kaibigan ay pinagsasamantalahan tayo, ginagamit tayo sa pakikinabang niya. Dumating na din ang punto na di na siya tumatanaw ng utang na loob,” Orduña said.
He also said the governor was saying that his family was eating from the palm of his hands.
“Napakasakit na dinadamdam ng buong pamilya. Pinulot lang daw kami. Masakit sa pamilya kaya siguro dumating ito. Matagal na din nating itong pinagisipan. Napakahirap mag desisyon sa ganitong bagay,” the mayor said.
He, however, said his coming out in the open was not politically motivated. He said it is only a coincidence that he filed the complaint before the May 2013 elections.
Alimagno said they have been giving jueteng payola of P825,000 to Camp Crame. He added that they also give jueteng money to members of the media.
“Kolektor lang din po ang nakakaharap ko. Wala po akong nakakaharap na opisyal. Nagbibigay din kami sa media.
Archbishop emeritus Oscar Cruz reminded the public of the dangers faced by the two whistle-blowers.
“Pag masdan nyo pong mabuti ang dalawang kababayan nating ito pagkat maaari po na ang kanilang mga buhay ay di magtagal at alam ko po ang aking sinasabi. Hindi po nagbibiro ang mga taong nasa ibabaw ng jueteng,” he said.
He added: “Hinahanggan ko sila at panalangin ko sa Diyos na pagpalain sila.”