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Cop chief removed amid ‘jueteng’ controversy

DAGUPAN CITY—The Pangasinan police director, on whose watch the province’s governor, Amado Espino Jr., allegedly operated illegal gambling, has been removed from office and replaced.

The regional headquarters of the Philippine National Police, however, said the official reason for the removal of Senior Supt. Mariano Luis Verzosa as Pangasinan police chief and his transfer to the main PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, is not involvement in jai alai, which authorities said is being used as a front for jueteng.

The regional PNP said Verzosa was removed and transferred because of possible conflict of interest since his daughter, Lingayen City Councilor Maan Versoza, is running for reelection next year.

The transfer became effective on Dec. 18. Verzosa is set to retire from the police service in July next year.

The Ilocos police announced Verzosa’s transfer at a news conference on Wednesday. Chief Supt. Franklin Jesus Bucayu, Ilocos regional police director, read the order removing Verzosa from Pangasinan and announcing the designation of Senior Supt. Manolito Labador, deputy regional director for operations, as acting Pangasinan police director.

In a radio broadcast on Wednesday night, Bucayu said he received a copy of the order removing Verzosa through a faxed message from Camp Crame. He said the shuffle of assignments was mandatory because police officers who may confront conflicts of interest situations during an election period must be transferred.

At a press conference announcing the filing of plunder charges against Espino, however, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said he was ordering a reshuffle of police officers in the wake of serious allegations of police involvement in illegal gambling syndicates.

Rumors persisted here that Verzosa’s relief was due to the exposés made last week by Bugallon Mayor Rodrigo Orduña that linked Espino to illegal gambling operations in Pangasinan.

Orduña alleged that Espino received as much as P900 million in protection money from illegal gambling operators and himself became an illegal gambling lord.

Roxas said he would shuffle police officers in Pangasinan while the Department of the Interior and Local Government is investigating Orduña’s allegations.

Verzosa’s last official act was to announce the arrest on Tuesday of the two suspected killers of Infanta Mayor Ruperto Martinez.

Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza said Verzosa’s transfer could be part of routine reshuffling. Yolanda Sotelo and Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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Tags: Amado Espino Jr. , illegal gambling , Jueteng , Police

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