Over the weekend, reelectionist Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim was accused of political harassment over the arrest of Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and five candidates for sponsoring a bingo session. But on Monday, his rival, former President Joseph Estrada, was accused of the same offense for allegedly bullying a police officer who arrested Moreno and five others.
In separate press conferences on Monday, Moreno denied that Estrada hurt the Blumentritt police community precinct head, Chief Insp. Ed Morata, while Lim challenged the vice mayor and the councilors to resign if they could not prove that he was behind the arrest.
The word war stemmed from the arrest on Saturday of Moreno, Councilors Joel Chua, Ma. Asuncion “Re” Fugoso, Ernesto “Jong” Isip Jr. and Yul Servo Nieto and former Councilor Manuel Zarcal over a bingo event on Tambunting Street, Barangay 374, Zone 38 in Sta. Cruz, Manila.
Moreno, who was accused of taunting Morata and Manila Police District Station 3 commander, Supt. Ricardo Layug, to arrest him, cried harassment, insinuating that the order came from Lim, maintaining that bingo was not an illegal gambling activity and adding that his wife was also being threatened.
Lim held a press conference at the Manila City Hall to set the record straight and stop the “lies” and “drama,” calling in the 14 policemen who arrested Moreno and the five councilors, as well as Morata, Layug and the MPD director, Senior Supt. Alex Gutierrez.
The Blumentritt PCP is under the MPD Station 3 in Quiapo, which has jurisdiction over District 3. Rep. Naida Angping, Zarcal, Councilors Bernardito “Bernie” Ang, Chua, Fugoso, Isip and Nieto, whose names appear on the bingo cards along with Estrada’s and Moreno’s, are opposition candidates in the district.
According to the police, the bingo cards were sold for P10 each with prizes of P5,000, P10,000 and P15,000 in cash.
Morata said he received a call Saturday complaining about the bingo event on Tambunting Street. When he and his men arrived, a staff of Ang negotiated with them to allow the raffle of the prizes instead.
Morata said that when Moreno arrived, he told the police, “Aren’t you afraid that we’ve already filed complaints against DD (Gutierrez) and (Station 5 commander Supt. Ferdinand) Quirante in the Ombudsman and Napolcom?”
The complaint was about the scuffle between the police and District 5 candidates in a raffle event in Paco on Feb. 6.
Layug added that Moreno asked the people, “Papayag ba kayo na hindi ituloy ang bingo (Is it okay to stop the bingo)?” Layug said he warned the vice mayor that he would be arrested. Moreno asked for the “bolilyo” and said “Sinong mang-aaresto? Ako hulihin mo (Who will make the arrest? Arrest me, then).”
“Ibola nyo po para consummated (Raffle it out so the act is deemed consummated),” Layug said. After Zarcal announced the bingo ball “N 44,” the police proceeded with the arrest and a ruckus ensued.
“We secured the councilors when the crowd went unruly. Bottles and rocks were being thrown indiscriminately. That is the reason this kind of activities need permits,” Layug said.
Aside from illegal gambling, the complaint filed against Moreno’s camp included obstruction, assault and resisting arrest.
“They’re saying they were detained for nine hours. Police officers have the right to investigate a person suspected of violating the law. And with the gravity of the offense, they could have been investigated for 36 hours and it would still be within the law,” Lim said.
At the prosecutor’s office around 2 a.m., Morata said that Estrada repeatedly jabbed him while he was being interviewed by Inquest Division Chief Elaine Yarra-Cerezo.
Estrada allegedly told him, “Pag hindi ka nagsabi ng totoo, tatlong buwan ka na lang, pag-upo ko.”
“Sigurado ba syang mananalo sya?” Lim quipped.
“In fairness to Vice President Binay, napaka-professional nya po, sa harapan sya nakaupo,” Morata said.
When asked, Morata said he wouldn’t file an assault case against Estrada. “Ayoko pong masabing namumulitika. Gusto ko lang po malaman ng lahat ang totoo. Hindi po ako namumulitika, at hindi rin po kami tuta ni mayor (I don’t want this to be seen as politicking. I just want everybody to know the truth. I’m not into politics and we’re not lapdogs of the mayor),” he said.
Moreno responded to Morata’s accusation in a separate press conference, “You are forgetting, you’re the one who hurt us. Don’t twist the story. You detained us for nine hours and a half, that’s the truth. And we proved you wrong. The fiscal said you were wrong. And now you will make a story that President Erap threatened you?”
“The truth is we didn’t violate anything. We were released for further investigation due to insufficiency of evidence,” Moreno said.
Major Bernabe Irinco, an aide of Estrada, also said that two persons were between Estrada and Morata, “so his accusation was impossible,” according to the former president’s spokesperson, Margaux Salcedo.
Lim commended the police for doing their job and said he would provide them with lawyers.
“Ang mga pulis sawa na sa demanda. SOP na ng lawyers ng kriminal na kapag inaresto, kinabukasan may reklamo na (The police are fed up with being sued. It is the SOP [Standard operating procedure] of lawyers of a criminal when he is arrested is to file a case against the cops the morning after),” he said.
“Ako hindi na dapat makialam dito, pero dahil pilit idinadawit ang pangalan ko, makikialam na ko. Susuportahan ko tong mga pulis dahil tumutupad sa tungkulin (I shouldn’t have been dragged to this, but since they dragged my name, I will now intervene. I will support the police officers who were just doing their duty),” Lim said.
“Tutal gusto nyo makuha pwesto ko, kapag napatunayan nyo na inutos ko sa tatlong officers na to (referring to Morata, Layug and Gutierrez) na arestuhin si vice mayor at yung limang konsehal, magreresign ako. Pero pag hindi naman nila napatunayan, magresign naman sila. I challenge them with resignation at stake, mahilig lang din kayo sa sugal (Anyway, since you want to take my position as mayor, if you prove that I ordered these three officers [Morata, Layug and Gutierrez] to arrest the vice mayor and 5 councilors, I would resign. But if they can’t prove that, then they should resign),” Lim said.
“Darating pa at magmumura sa presinto (They even came to the precinct and threw curses). What are you trying to prove, that you’re above the law? Na-convict ka na above the law pa (You have been convicted and yet, you think you’re above the law?),” Lim said, alluding to Estrada’s plunder conviction.
Lim denied that he knew about the bingo events held by Moreno and the councilors when they were still allies.
“Dahil daw sa eleksyon. Hinahaluan ng pulitika. Wala akong order. Sila ang namumulitika para mapansin sila ng tao. Wag silang magpaloko sa nagkukunwari, gumagawa ng eksena at drama. Iniinterview sa TV, mukhang kawawa, nagda-drama lang to eh, sanay sa drama (They say that the arrest was related to the elections. They’re mixing politics into this issue. I did not order such a thing. They’re pulling political tactics to gain the attention of people. The people should not be fooled by those out to deceive them, those who are out to create a scene and drama. They make themselves look pitiful when being interviewed on TV. But they’re just creating drama, they’re used to drama) ,” Lim said.