Gambling operator links 2 Cabinet men, retired generals to slay plot
Gambling operator Charlie “Atong” Ang on Thursday accused two Cabinet officials and several retired military generals of plotting to kill him over gambling operations in areas where his company operates.
Ang, who operates the virtual jai-alai numbers game through Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. based at the Cagayan Freeport, appealed to President Duterte to save him from Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and some members of Philippine Military Academy Class (PMA) ’82.
Ang, a former gambling buddy of former President Joseph Estrada, is Meridien’s consultant and general manager.
“Mr. President, I am not asking for any business concessions. I’m asking for [protection for] my life,” Ang said in an interview with reporters.
He claimed that he and Mr. Duterte were friends. “Before Digong (Mr. Duterte) became President, I said there were threats to my life. The people should know this because I may not be able to say it if
I’m dead,” said Ang, a business partner of Chinese gambling tycoon Jack Lam, who had operated an online gaming casino at Clark Freeport in Pampanga province.
Ang said this would be the third attempt on his life. He said he received similar threats from illegal gambling operators and government officials during the Estrada and Arroyo administrations.
According to Ang, he was tipped off by some agents of the National Bureau of Investigation about the plan to neutralize him and his gambling operation, which was granted a license by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority.
Ang said Aguirre was taking part in Small Time Lottery (STL) operation through his brother, Engineer Ogie Aguirre. He said Ogie had been bringing investors to the Batangas STL and also operated STL in Laguna and the Bicol region.
STL is a numbers game that the Duterte administration is promoting to stamp out the illegal numbers game jueteng.
Ang also claimed that a congressman, whom he did not identify yet, was Aguirre’s bagman in Quezon.
“I will name the congressman in a legislative investigation,” he said.
He said Aguirre was using the NBI to neutralize him.
As for Esperon, Ang said the national security adviser went to Pangasinan province asking local government officials not to patronize Ang’s operation.
Citing information relayed by local officials, Ang said Esperon also demanded a cut from STL collections in the province.
Ang named some PMA Class ’82 retired generals involved in STL as Jose Jorge Corpuz, chair of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO); Alexander Balutan, PCSO general manager, and Generals Francisco Uyami and Isidro Lapeña.
He said several members of this class were protectors of illegal gambling in the north, and were even issued STL franchises and later sold these to other individuals.
Reached for comment, Esperon just laughed off Ang’s accusation.
“When did I become a killer? When I was a lieutenant I killed terrorists—Abu Sayyaf members. That’s all,” he told the Inquirer.
Esperon disputed Ang’s claim about a conspiracy among PMA Class ’82 retired generals.
He said he belonged to PMA Class ’74, Corpuz was from Class ’82, and Balutan from Class ’83.
“I don’t know Atong Ang, so why would I have him killed? “ Esperon asked.
“I think you should call Corpuz and Balutan because they are the ones who introduced STL to eradicate illegal gambling,” he said.
Ang said he was convinced that the threat to his life was serious when he went to Cagayan de Oro City last Sunday for a cockfight.
While there, he said some PMA Class ’82 members, whom he described as his friends, frantically called him on the phone and warned him to immediately leave the area, as some of their mistah (classmates) were out to kill him that day.
“I was told, ‘Boss go home immediately. Our mistahs want you killed,’” he quoted the caller as saying.
Fearing for his life, Ang said he chartered a King Air flight reserved for emergency situations just to get him out of the area.
He also said he had been receiving tips from concerned friends in the NBI and the same PMA class.
“Last Saturday, friends phoned me and said ‘Sir, take care as you are a target,” he quoted them as saying.
Ang said those who were planning to kill him wanted STL to thrive in areas where his virtual jai alai was strong.
“It’s OK if STL and virtual jai alai compete with each other. But they want to have me killed,” he said.
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