‘Jueteng’ probe rocks alliance of LP, NPC

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01:11 AM December 18th, 2012

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By: Gil Cabacungan, December 18th, 2012 01:11 AM

Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr. Photo from pangasinan.gov.ph

With less than two months before the campaign for the 2013 midterm elections starts, cracks are already showing on the alliance between the Liberal Party (LP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and the shaker is the revival of an investigation into the illegal numbers racket “jueteng.”

Seismic activity began last week, with Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas of the LP launching an investigation against Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino, a senior NPC official.

But other politicians feel the tremor and they believe politics is generating the energy that causes the shaking.

Vice President Jejomar Binay’s nominally oppositionist United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said Monday the fresh investigation could be an administration ploy to control vote-rich Pangasinan ahead of the elections.

Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, UNA secretary general, said in a statement that the alliance supported any effort against jueteng but was suspicious about the timing of the disclosure of Espino’s involvement in jueteng.

“The 2013 election is just a few weeks away,” Tiangco said. “The administration and the administration party headed by the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) secretary cannot escape suspicion that politics is one motivation for the sudden interest in jueteng in Pangasinan.”

The LP is fielding Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza against Espino in the gubernatorial race in Pangasinan. President Aquino carried Pangasinan in the 2010 presidential election with Braganza’s help.

Tiangco said securing victory for the administration’s candidate in Pangasinan in 2013 could translate into benefits in the province for Malacañang’s candidate in the presidential election in 2016.

LP members are expected to field Roxas in the 2016 race for Malacañang. The UNA’s Binay has said he’s running that race.

As for the NPC, former Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan said the party would stand by Espino even if Roxas persisted in putting him in jail.

“Our alliance is with P-Noy (President Aquino). That alliance manifests itself as an alliance with the LP in the House of Representatives. Local politics are another matter,” said Cojuangco, son of NPC founder Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.

“We await the evidence which will be presented by the DILG and see if it will prosper beyond the current hearsay. Without solid evidence, we will maintain our support and campaign for our candidate even if he is thrown in jail. As you know, you can be put in jail even if you have not yet been convicted,” Cojuangco said.

Valenzuela City Rep. Rex Gatchalian, the NPC spokesperson, said, “We believe that given the chance to present his side, [Espino] will be able to vindicate himself.”

Cojuangco said Espino had become a target of the LP because he was popular and that the vote-rich province was dominated by the NPC, whose members include 39 of Pangasinan’s 48 mayors. With a report from Tarra Quismundo

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