Ernesto Mercado: I was in a hotel-casino for a meeting, not to gamble

Mara Cepeda
Ernesto Mercado: I was in a hotel-casino for a meeting, not to gamble
The Binay ally-turned-foe admits he gambles from time to time, but says he only uses his own money

MANILA, Philippines – Former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado dismissed the claims of Senator Nancy Binay that he was seen gambling in a casino in Pampanga over the weekend. 

Nagpunta ako, pero pakitanong mo kay Nancy kung saan niya ‘ko nakita, sa casino ba mismo o kumakain sa restaurant dahil may ka-meeting ako?” Mercado told reporters on the sidelines of the Liberal Party (LP) celebration of International Women’s Day at the Makati Coliseum on Monday, March 7.

(Yeah I went there, but ask Nancy where she actually saw me, inside the casino or eating inside a restaurant because I had a meeting there?)

Alam mo hotel and casino ‘yun e. Hindi naman ibig sabihin na ‘pag nagpunta ka sa hotel na may casino e nandun ka na,” added Mercado, whose daughter Karla is running for Makati vice mayor under the administration party. 

(You know, it’s a hotel and casino. It doesn’t mean that if you go to the hotel, you’re also going to the casino.)

Senator Binay said she was in a hotel lobby in Pampanga on Saturday afternoon when her husband told her that Mercado was leaving the hotel’s casino. She said she only personally saw Mercado when he was already about to leave the hotel. (READ: Nancy Binay to ask DOJ: Why is Ernesto Mercado at casinos?)

Another Binay ally, former Candaba, Pampanga mayor Jerry Pelayo, said he briefly spoke with Mercado at another hotel-casino in Pampanga on Saturday evening. 

Pelayo supposedly advised Mercado to go home after the former Makati politician said he lost money after gambling.

Mercado is a rival of Senator Binay’s father Vice President Jejomar Binay. He was a key witness during the more than yearlong Senate probe that looked into the corruption accusations against the United Nationalist Alliance standard-bearer.

Senator Binay said she plans to write a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to clarify whether people under the Witness Protection Program like Mercado are allowed to visit casinos.

Why beat me up?

Mercado questioned why the Binay camp is attacking him again.

Hindi naman ako kandidato ngayon. Bakit ako ang binubugbog nila? Kaya lang naman nila ako binubugbog isa lang eh, ayaw lang nilang makapagsalita pa ‘ko laban sa katiwalian nila,” he said. 

(I’m not a candidate now. Why are they beating me up? They’re doing this to me because they don’t want me to talk about their corruption.)

Senator Binay also claimed that the LP might be funding Mercado’s gambling activities because his daughter is running under the party. 

Mercado admits that he is a gambler but clarifies the money he uses belongs to him. (READ: ‘Mercado not credible, abused VP Binay’s trust’)

Ako, openly sinasabi ko, nagsasabong ako, naglalaro ako paminsan-minsan. Diversion ‘yun. Ang masama, ‘yung nagnanakaw ng pera ng bayan,” Mercado said.

(I’m openly saying that I do cock fighting and gamble sometimes. That’s a diversion. What’s wrong is stealing the Filipino people’s money.)

He added that he is ready to face any penalties from the DOJ should it begin investigating his activities.

Okay lang sa aking kuwestiyunin ako. Ako naman, mula sa umpisa, ang sagot ko sa inyo isa lang: Lahat ng pagsubok haharapin ko, pero hindi ako aatras sa laban para sa sambayanang Pilipino at sa ating bansa,” he said.

(If they question me, that’s fine. Since the beginning, I’ve been giving the same answer: I will face all challenges, but I will not give up the fight for Filipinos and for our country.)

During the last Senate hearing on VP Binay, Mercado asked that the WPP be improved because whistleblowers face a number of risks, including death threats and failure to support their families. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.