A team of investigators from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has started looking into the bank accounts and assets of Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr., who has been accused of coddling operators of the illegal numbers game, or “jueteng,” in his province.
In a news briefing at Camp Crame Wednesday, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas said Interior Undersecretary Rafael Santos is heading the team that has asked the Anti-Money Laundering Council to review the transactions involving Espino’s bank accounts.
Roxas said the DILG investigators has also sought the assistance of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and other government agencies to check the properties Espino owns and the taxes he had paid.
“They have also sent a letter and officially communicated with Governor Espino. We expect him to answer formally the complaint by (Bugallon Mayor Rodrigo) Orduña against him,” he said.
Roxas said he cannot order the immediate suspension of Espino until the team has completed its investigation.
Orduña, who admitted to having been the one to have collected protection money from illegal gambling operators for Espino, surfaced last week and accused his former boss and political ally of amassing up to P900 million in jueteng payoffs.
Orduña and a confessed jueteng operator, Fernando “Boy Bata” Alimagno, also filed plunder charges against Espino with the Office of the Ombudsman.
“We are also asking other government agencies if the properties and assets he (Espino) listed in his SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) correspond to the alleged P900 million (in protection money) he received. If not, where’s the money?” Roxas said.
He said the investigating team would first look at the documents pertaining to Orduña’s allegations. “But we may also hold hearings if needed,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) on Wednesday issued a statement defending Espino from the allegations.
Valenzuela Rep. Rex Gatchalian, NPC spokesperson, said local politics may have triggered the accusations against Espino. The reelectionist Espino is being challenged in the 2013 election contest by Alaminos Mayor Hernani Braganza, a member of President Aquino’s Liberal Party. With a report from Christian V. Esguerra