Just months into the Aquino administration, antijueteng crusader Archbishop Oscar Cruz submitted to the Senate a list of alleged “jueteng” operators and jueteng payoff recipients.
Among those identified as a jueteng operator was Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr., who called Cruz’s accusation “a big lie.”
In a 2007 interview with the Inquirer, Espino, at the time the newly elected governor of Pangasinan, said jueteng was a “very good issue,” but added that it was “the least of [his] problems.”
“I have a lot of problems in the province,” said Espino, a former police and military officer and Pangasinan representative in Congress.
Another list, made by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, identified Charlie “Atong” Ang, a former gambling buddy of deposed President Joseph Estrada, as a top jueteng operator.
In March 2007, Ang, who was jailed as a coaccused in Estrada’s plunder case, pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of indirect bribery, and agreed to return P25 million, his share of tax kickbacks he was accused of diverting in conspiracy with Estrada.
Ang was released in 2009 after a two-year probation, and later decided to concentrate on the “legal” jai alai. He is currently connected with Meridien Vista Gaming Corp.
‘Stops, resurges, stops’
Several high-profile politicians have been linked to jueteng over the years, including Estrada and members of the family of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative.
During Estrada’s impeachment trial in December 2000, Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson testified that Estrada accepted payoffs from jueteng operators. Estrada was ousted from office a month later.
In June 2005, confessed jueteng bagmen Richard Garcia and Demosthenes Abraham “Abe” Riva told a Senate hearing that former first gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, his son Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo of Ang Galing Pinoy party-list group and Negros Oriental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo (now deceased) were involved in jueteng.
In the same month, jueteng bagwoman and whistle-blower Sandra Cam also told the Senate that she personally handed jueteng money to Mikey Arroyo and Iggy Arroyo.
The Arroyos denied the accusations. In August 2005, Riva turned around and cleared the Arroyos. Garcia, too, backed off and apologized to the Arroyos in a televised news conference.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which has stepped in to help police stop the resurgence of jueteng in Pangasinan, said it had encountered difficulties in arresting people involved in jueteng.
According to the NBI, jueteng in the province “stops, then resurges, then stops.”
In February this year, then Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said jueteng flourished in Pangasinan and nearby La Union and Ilocos Sur provinces despite government efforts to arrest and prosecute jueteng collectors.
A police official in the Ilocos region said jueteng was “openly played in Pangasinan in the guise of jai alai.”
Prior to his death in August, Robredo had been on top of the fight against jueteng. He identified Pangasinan as one of the areas where he encountered “the most resistance.” The other places were Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Quezon and Batangas, Robredo said.
In September this year, Sen. Panfilo Lacson claimed that a regional police director may be getting between P2 million and P3 million monthly from jueteng operators, and that a provincial police director could be receiving as much as P1.5 million a month in protection money.
Lacson also placed the daily take from jueteng at P50 million.
The Philippine National Police, pressing a “one-strike policy,” has sacked several police officials because of their failure to curb jueteng in their areas. Among those relieved were Senior Insp. Allan Joy Medina Suratos of Alcala, Pangasinan, and Senior Insp. Roger Manuel Digmayo of Santo Tomas, Pangasinan. Both were relieved in June.
Source: Inquirer Archives