Blame it on basketball.
A disagreement over a referee’s call during a local basketball league involving both their sons triggered the falling out between Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr. and his trusted aide, Bugallon town Mayor Rodrigo Orduña, which led to the latter’s exposé of the governor’s alleged involvement in jueteng (an illegal numbers game).
In an exclusive interview with the Inquirer on Wednesday night, Orduña said he decided to cut his ties with Espino when the governor and his supporters threatened to “wipe out” members of the Orduña clan in Pangasinan.
“Uubusin namin ang lahat ng (we will wipe out the) Orduña (clan). Let’s just (see) what will happen when your father is no longer mayor,” Orduña quoted one of Espino’s supporters telling his son.
The mayor said the conflict between him and Espino started when he refused to grant a mayor’s permit to a “crushing plant” that the governor allegedly owns in Bugallon.
He said the crushing plant processes rocks, gravel and other “soil aggregates” for the infrastructure projects of the Pangasinan provincial government.
Punched the referee
The mayor added that the tension between him and Espino escalated sometime last year when the younger Orduña accosted and punched a referee who, he said, favored the basketball team of Espino’s son.
“My son was just watching the basketball game. But he could not take (the referee’s call) in favor of the team of Espino’s son,” the mayor said. Espino had sponsored the basketball league, he added.
After the incident, Orduña said Espino’s son and supporters immediately ran to the governor and told him what happened.
He thought Espino would mediate between their sons and “patch things up like a father,” Orduña said, but “instead, (the governor) agreed to his supporters’ plan to look for my son (and) beat him up. It was then that they started to threaten our family,” he said.
That was the trigger, said the mayor, who said it was a painful decision for him to turn against the governor.
“I treated him like a father. Our clan regarded him as family,” he said. “Pinakain niya lang daw kami sa kanyang palad (he claimed we fed at his hand),” Orduña said.
Before he decided to blow the whistle on Espino, the mayor said he consulted members of his family who, he said, agreed that it was time to distance themselves from the governor.
Anger and bitterness
“I suddenly felt all the anger and bitterness that I had been keeping against him all these years. I thought this was the best time to reveal what I know about his involvement in jueteng.”
Added the mayor: “(Espino) said the Orduña clan was just his creation. It’s actually the other way around. Our family adopted him in Bugallon because he was originally from Bautista town, which is located in the fifth congressional district. He knew he couldn’t win as congressman there so he moved to Bugallon.”
Orduña claimed that the police officer-turned-politician used the money he earned from the illegal numbers game to bankroll several dummy companies that cornered multimillion-peso infrastructure projects in Pangasinan.
The mayor said Espino also bought luxury cars, houses, properties and other expensive items from the protection money he allegedly received from jueteng syndicates.
“Espino is a very arrogant man. He acts as if he were God. He is also very intelligent. But he used his intelligence to enrich himself even at the expense of those who helped him,” Orduña said.
Confessed jueteng operator Fernando “Boy Bata” Alimagno, who also turned his back on Espino, claimed the governor “is addict(ed) to money.”