By Jing Villamente Reporter and Anthony Vargas, Correspondent
NATIONAL Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Alan Purisima and Region 4-A (Calabarzon) Police director James Melad were named as among top Philippine National Police (PNP) officials who are allegedly on the payroll of jueteng operators.
A certain Molly Acuña made the disclosure in an e mail sent to Camp Crame reporters. He also denied allegations that he is collecting protection money from illegal gambling operations for his bosses.
The Manila Times found out that Acuña is a civilian personnel of the PNP-Intelligence Group under Chief Supt. Charles Calima. In his letter, Acuña denied newspaper reports about his involvement in jueteng. Instead, he said that an IG official, Supt. Erwin Robles, was behind the “black propaganda” against him.
“I am certain that those behind this black propaganda [led by] Col. Erwin Robles of the [IG] who is the one in charge of collecting [protection money] from all illegal activities in Metro Manila. Col. Robles wants to take all profits from his chief, Charles Calima],” Acuña said in his purported email.
He went on to accuse Robles and his wife, Belle, of involvement in other illegal transactions than illegal gambling, “especially during the time of then PNP chief Jesus Versoza.”
“It is time to dig up their hidden wealth,” Acuña stressed in his e-mail written in Filipino and addressed to “PNP PRESS CORPS.”
The Times tried to reach Robles but all calls were either unanswered or dropped.
For his part, PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said he could not comment on the matter because “they never received a copy of the said e-mail.”
Calima denied the allegations that they are collecting jueteng protection money from jueteng operators and other illegal activities.
In a telephone interview, the IG head said that he does not know Acuna and that he is saddened to hear of his accusations. He lamented that the accomplishments of the PNP-IG are not even mentioned in news reports.
“It is in our mandate to go after illegal activities that sometimes were not even reported in news programs or newspapers. But we continue to do our job. Di ko na binibigyan pahalaga ang mga ganyan kasi sa dami ng aming nasasagasaan, marami din ang maaring magalit sa IG (I do not give importance to such allegations because many people must be angry at us because of our operations),” Calima said.
He cited recent incident in Cebu City wherein some unscrupulous people claimed to be operatives of the PNP-IG and collected protection money from vice and gambling lords in the province.
“Me lead na kami [We have lead] and we are hunting them. Wala po kaming mga agent agent dito [We do not have agents here]. Puro [Only] uniformed personnel. This is just a demolition job,” Calima said.
He added that Col. Robles is the counter intelligence officer of the Group and that the official is tasked to penetrate even the operatives of IG’s movement in trying to apprehend people in illegal activities.
“Maraming nagsasabi na bakit daw kami sumasali sa mga operation against illegal gambling. Ito po ay dahil ang IG ay member ng task force on illegal gambling maging sa task force on anti-terrorism kasali rin ang IG, bukod pa sa talagang trabaho nito. Ilang taon na ko sa serbisyo at ilang taon na lang din ang ilalagi ko dito dudungisan ko pa ba ang aking pangalan? (Many are questioning why we are involved in anti-gambling operations. This is because IG is a member of the task force on illegal gambling, also the task force on anti-terrorism. I have been in the service for many years and I will be retiring in just a few year, will I besmirched my name?” Calima said.
In the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) Region, it was alleged that a certain “Col. Rene Pamuspusan” is acting as Melad’s “bagman.” In the NCR, on the other hand, a certain Bebit Aguas reportedly collects for Purisima.
On Sunday, retired Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz claimed that jueteng continues to flourish because of the government’s lack of interest in eradicating it.
The former bishop revealed that jueteng operators no longer conduct their own draws since the winning numbers are based on the results of draws held by small town lotteries under the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
He also cited the government’s lack of interest in addressing the issue.
“Jueteng did not just boom. The operation is much stronger now. That’s because jueteng is exempted on the President’s ‘matuwid na daan.’ (straight path). When he (President Benigno Aquino 3rd) assumed position, I asked how come jueteng can’t be stopped? He said it’s not his priority,” the bishop said.
“There are three things that are exempted in the president’s ‘matuwid na daan’: Jueteng, Hacienda Luisita and the KKK.”
Cerbo maintained on Monday that the police campaign against illegal gambling, particularly jueteng, has not waned.
“Our operations against illegal gambling… it didn’t stop. Our operations against, our campaign
against jueteng did not stop,” Cerbo, one of the alternate spokesmen for the PNP, said.
“It is one of the sensitive issues that the PNP is focusing into… we didn’t stop our nationwide campaign against jueteng… and we do still have many accomplishments against illegal gambling,” he added.
The PNP spokesman said that their operations against illegal gambling is still ongoing in several regions in Luzon and in Metro Manila and have resulted in the arrest of many persons.
Cerbo also confirmed that they have received reports that some “operators” using STL draws, some being run by local government units, to cover for their own operations.
“There are reports of that came which out before and the police are looking into that… the PNP can still find out if [STL] operations are legal or illegal and we can see it on the ground,” Cerbo said.
Jueteng’s operations reached its peak in 2000 during the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada who was eventually found guilty of plunder in September 2007.
Another political scandal erupted in June 2005 involving allegations that relatives of then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo received payoffs from jueteng operators.
In 2010, some politicians such as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Jinggoy Estrada proposed that jueteng be legalized and taxed so that government can legally profit from it.
But the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd rejected the proposal to legalize jueteng and instead, he directed the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to formulate a comprehensive plan to combat and to stop jueteng operations, a mission that has yet to be accomplished to this day.
Sources said that there are presently two jueteng “kingdoms.” One group is controlled by Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda of Pampanga province who has long been suspected pf being a “jueteng lord.” The other clique is said to be under Estrada’s former friend and gambling buddy, Atong Ang, who now runs a jai-alai fronton using his company Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. (MVGC).
“Not only are policemen on the take. It has been known that money from jueteng even reach as high as the Palace,” the source said, alluding to the seat of power.
Insiders said this is the reason why even the DILG could not totally wipe out the illegal numbers game.
Ang had served jail term and was deported from the United States where he fled following after Estrada’s ouster. He is now back as head of the MVGC which, according to him and his lawyers, is under the supervision of the Games and Amusement Board.
But when the DILG and the police sensed that MVGC jai-alai betting was being used also as a cover for jueteng, they pounced on Ang.
Ang fought back by suing the DILG and PNP for illegally busting his jai-alai operation as it was only sanctioned by GAB, being the only authority that covers the operations of jai-alai and basketball leagues, among others.
“They have cases against us (DILG) and the Department of Justice, which were all dismissed [for lack of merit],” DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo told The Times.
Robredo said that the DILG ordered raids on MVGC betting stations as far as Cagayan and Maragondon, Cavite province but was questioned by Ang who invoked GAB’s authority over his firm.
“Until now GAB has not given authority to DILG or the PNP to close down Atong’s MVGC,” another source said.
Robredo added that Ang and Pineda are still “at it” but he strongly denied that the two big-time gambling lords have already linked up with him or any DILG official for better protection.
“I’m sure not with the DILG. We did operations in Maragondon and Cavite against the MVGC. DILG will continue to operate against jueteng,” Robredo said.