MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim will go to the Commission on Elections to check if Vice Mayor Isko Moreno has violated the election code for sponsoring a bingo game in Sta. Cruz, Manila Saturday.
Moreno and five councilors were arrested by Quiapo police for holding the game, which authorities claimed was illegal.
A prosecutor has ordered the release for further investigation of Moreno (Francisco Domagoso in real life), Councilors Ma. Asuncion Fugoso, Joel Chua and Ernesto Isip Jr., and former Councilor Manuel Zarcal.
The order from Manila Inquest Division Chief Elaine Yarra-Cerezo came around 4 a.m. Sunday, almost 12 hours after Moreno’s arrest.
Lim said he will question before the poll body if there was a violation because the confiscated bingo cards contained the names of former president Joseph Estrada, Moreno and several councilors.
Estrada is running against Lim in the Manila elections for mayor in May.
Lim denied that he had a hand in the arrest. “You will commit a crime and when you’re arrested, you’ll point to me? They’re putting political color to this. Just face the truth and question the arrest if it’s illegal,” Lim said on radio.
Moreno came to the bingo event Saturday afternoon on Tambunting Street, Barangay (village) 384, Sta. Cruz, after he received a call from one of the councilors that policemen had arrived to stop the game for being illegal.
Superintendent Ricardo Layug, commander of the Manila Police District Quiapo Station, said, however, that Moreno and the councilors were not yet off the hook for the illegal gambling complaint and “other cases” filed by the police.
“They were not simply released but released for further investigation,” Layug told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview. “It means that instead of holding inquest proceedings, there will be a preliminary investigation. So the case will continue.”
“They will be called again to submit their answers to the cases we filed against them. (Illegal gambling) is one but there are more cases that I’d rather not discuss at the moment,” Layug said.
Layug did not comment on Moreno’s claim that the arrest was political harassment.
Moreno said on television that the councilors had been holding bingo games in the last five years along with medical missions and feeding programs but it was only recently that they are being harassed after
they switched to the party of Estrada.
Last week, Manila Councilors Cristy Isip, Richard Ibay, Rafael Borromeo and Ramon Yupangco, and former Councilor Erick Valbuena also had a scuffle with the police over a raffle event in Paco which had no permit. The councilors had filed a complaint against MPD Director Chief Superintendent Alex Gutierrez and other involved policemen in the Office
of the Ombudsman and the National Police Commission.
Moreno and majority of the councilors last year joined Estrada in his bid to challenge the reelection of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim. Estrada and Vice President Jejomar Binay visited the police station Saturday night to check on their allies.
“The police said they were just following orders. From whom did it come from? There’s only one who can give such order,” Moreno said.
Moreno maintained that there was no illegal gambling because former President Ferdinand Marcos had signed a letter of instruction
exempting bingo from the anti-illegal gambling law when intended as a parlor game.