MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday, May 2, ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the accusations of gaming tycoon Charlie "Atong" Ang against him and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Under Department Order 267, Aguirre directed and authorized NBI Director Dante Gierran "to conduct investigation and case build-up over the accusations of Charlie 'Atong' Ang against the Secretary of Justice and National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon Jr."
He ordered Gierran to submit an update report to him within 15 days.
Aguirre's directive is based on Ang's allegations that the justice chief and Esperon were reportedly behind a plot to kill him. Ang had accused Aguirre and his brother of controlling the government's small town lottery (STL) operations in Batangas, Laguna, and Bicol, which Aguirre categorically denied.
Ang had also alleged that Esperon was trying to control the STL operations in the retired general's home province of Pangasinan.
STL is the government's answer to illegal numbers game jueteng.
Ang alleged that the threats stemmed from the operations of Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation, an online jai-alai numbers game he operates, based in Cagayan Freeport. Aguirre had accused Meridien of tax evasion.
Ang made the allegations against Aguirre and Esperon as the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) warned that it would have Meridien bet collectors arrested.
Ever since President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order (EO) to intensify the fight against illegal gambling, the PCSO renewed its opposition to Meridien, saying its operations are illegal.
Meridien has a license to operate within Cagayan freeport, but the PCSO said Meridien is operating outside it.
The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) wants to revoke Meridien's license as the company needs to first acquire a franchise from Congress.
A trial court ruled in favor of Meridien on this issue but in January 2016, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered the Court of Appeals (CA) to "give due course" to CEZA's case against Meridien.
While the House committee on games and amusement had expressed its intention to investigate Meridien, the panel chairman, Parañaque Second District Representative Gus Tambunting, told Rappler in a phone interview that no resolution has been filed for that purpose.
"There are discussions into (House Bill 4843 or the Act Strengthening the Games and Amusements Board) so perhaps that can be tackled if there's a need," Tambunting said.
Ang and Aguirre
Ang and Aguirre crossed paths in the scandal involving high-ranking officials of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and gambling tycoon Jack Lam, which became the subject of a Senate inquiry.
The scandal stemmed from the arrest of Chinese workers at Lam's workers at his Pampanga casino who were had no working papers.
Aguirre had alleged that Ang's accusations against him were in retaliation for ordering the raid on Lam's Fontana Leisure Park "that busted the billion-peso online illegal gambling operation that was being conducted thereat by his business partner and best friend Jack Lam."
Ang came to prominence in the plunder case of former President Joseph Estrada as one of the accused in the intricate scheme of earning kickbacks from jueteng and tobacco excise tax. He pleaded guilty to a lesser offense, returned commissions worth P25 milliion, and served a two-year probation. – Rappler.com