MANILA, Philippines – The national opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) warned the Aquino administration against using the anti-gambling campaign to destroy rivals in the 2013 elections, casting doubts on its “sudden interest in jueteng in Pangasinan.”
The statement was made by UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco 3 days after Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, who is also Liberal Party (LP) president, presented a mayor who accused Pangasinan Gov Amado Espino Jr of receiving jueteng bribe money.
Jueteng is an illegal numbers game, and Espino had said the accusations of his protegé, Bugallon Mayor Rodrigo Orduña, were “false.”
Espino, who is with the Nationalist People’s Coalition, is running for a third term next year. His lone challenger is Alaminos Mayor Hernani Braganza, admittedly a trusted lieutenant of Roxas and a good friend of President Benigno Aquino III.
“The administration and the administration party headed by the DILG Secretary cannot escape suspicion that politics is one motivation for the sudden interest in jueteng in Pangasinan. They are fielding a candidate for governor who is admittedly a trusted lieutenant of the DILG Secretary in a vote-rich province dominated by the NPC,” Tiangco said.
Pangasinan is the second vote richest province in the Philippines, with about 1.6 million voters. It has 6 congressional districts, 44 municipalities, and 4 cities.
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The opposition coalition said the anti-jueteng drive “should not be seasonal, nor should it be used for political ends.” It added: “We wish the administration success in its campaign, but we believe it can really succeed if it takes away politics as a motive.
“The 2013 election is just a few weeks away. The administration and the administration party headed by the DILG Secretary cannot escape suspicion that politics is one motivation for the sudden interest in jueteng in Pangasinan,” the statement added.
The political significance of getting control of Pangasinan for the 2016 presidential election was not lost on UNA either. Roxas, who lost to UNA’s Jejomar Binay in the vice presidential race in 2010, is widely believed to be eyeing the presidency in 2016, against Binay again.
“Political control over Pangasinan is apparently important to anyone aspiring for higher office in 2016, and this includes the DILG Secretary,” UNA said.
Tiangco also said that the timing of the revelations seemed convenient for Roxas’ purposes.
“The revelations of a whistleblower against the Pangasinan governor has given the DILG Secretary a convenient excuse to revamp the provincial police force, something he cannot immediately do by classifying the province as a high-risk area for the election, a classification that has been questioned by almost all incumbent local officials of Pangasinan,” he said.
In a press conference Friday, December 14, Roxas that he would immediately reshuffle police forces in the province on Monday, December 17.
He directed the Philippine National Police to immediately relieve all police officers in Pangasinan, including the provincial director, Senior Supt Mariano Versoza.
Before this, Roxas announced that Pangasinan is one of the 15 provinces with the highest risk of having election-related violence.
Roxas on Friday slammed claims that the revelations made by against Espino had anything to do with party politics.
“We will bring this through logical conclusions. If cases are to be filed then they will be filed. If recommendations for penalties are due then we will make those recommendations. You know the President. President Aquino will do what is right, he will not protect anyone, in the same party or not,” he said.
Roxas also defended the whistleblowers saying their motives didn’t matter, but that it is the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s job and responsibility to investigate the case whatever the motive.
In a sworn statement submitted the Office of the Obudsman Friday, Orduña called Espino, his former patron, the “Big Boss” of jueteng in Pangasinan who has received P800 to P900 million in jueteng money.
Espino initially refused to comment on the charges, with a source close to him saying he would answer the “false charges” after consulting with his lawyers.
However, the governor told DZMM on Monday that it was Orduña and barangay captain Fernando “Boy Bata” Alimagno who introduced him to Charlie Ang, the supposed gambling financier in Pangasinan. In fact, Espino said, it was Orduña who issued a permit for Ang’s jai alai operations. – Rappler.com