MANILA - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday called on the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to look into the operations of a gambling firm linked to businessman Charlie "Atong" Ang for allegedly failing to remit revenues to the government.
"The [Department of Justice], together with the BIR, should investigate kung bakit hindi nagbabayad ng buwis iyang taong iyan," Aguirre said in a phone interview with radio DZMM.
Ang is an adviser of the Meridien Vista Gaming Corp., which operates Virtual Two numbers game in head-on competition with the small town lottery (STL) being promoted by the government.
Meridien is based in a free port in Cagayan, whose perks include tax exemptions. It accepts bets from adjoining provinces, where its operations are sanctioned by mayors.
The justice department has issued a legal opinion that Meridian should not operate outside Cagayan as its franchise only covers the Cayagan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), Aguirre said.
He alleged that local officials were bribed to allow Meridien's operations outside CEZA.
"Matagal na pong ganyan ang opinyon. Actually even before I came to the Department of Justice -- na ang Meridien ay hindi maaaring mag-operate outside Ceza. Pero sapagkat mayroon siyang bayaran diyan na government officials... Mayroon iyang mga protektor," Aguirre claimed.
"Nasa payroll niya ang marami naming tauhan sa NBI, Bureau of Immigration," he added.
ANG FIRES BACK
Ang, for his part, insisted that Meridien's operations are legal because the Virtual Two draws are held in Cagayan and only the collection of bets are done outside CEZA.
He also accused Aguirre of threatening local officials to cancel Meridien's permits because his brother, Engineer Ogie Aguirre, is an alleged STL operator.
"Patutunayan ko na iyang kapatid mo, kinakausap ang mga local government... Tinatakot niya at tinatakot mo (Aguirre) na kailangang patigilin, i-cancel ang permit ng Meridien," Ang said in a separate DZMM interview.
Ang added that this is also why Aguirre, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and other officials have allegedly plotted to have him killed.
The businessman said he has evidence to support his allegations and that he is willing to face a Senate investigation.
"Lahat ng nalalaman ko, ipapapatay na lang din nila ako, kailangan ko nang masabi. Lahat, idadamay ko na lahat. May ebidensya ako lahat d'yan," he said.
AGUIRRE SLAMS 'PARANOID' ANG
An incensed Aguirre challenged Ang to present his evidence and file a case in court.
"Kung mayroong ebidensya itong si Atong, dapat magdemanda na agad siya at humingi siya ng kahit anong investigation, pwede kong harapin siya," he said.
"Iyang si Atong Ang, paranoid na iyan at akala niya ay tama na ang pag-akusa nang walang ebidensya. Maglabas ka ng ebidensya, Atong, hindi iyang puro daldal ka."
(If Atong really has evidence, he should file charges and call for an investigation, I can face him. Atong Ang is paranoid and thinks that it right to lob accusations without evidence. Release evidence, Atong, and don't just go on babbling.)
The justice chief added that Ang's accusations are fanned by fears of losing millions of pesos in the Duterte administration's crackdown on illegal gambling.
The administration recently increased the number of STL operators in a bid to curb illegal gambling and generate massive funds for social services.
Aguirre heads the Task Force on Illegal Gambling.