MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he himself reached out to gaming tycoon Charlie "Atong" Ang, supposedly to get him to help the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) stop illegal gambling.
In a speech on Wednesday, January 24, Duterte called Ang the "number one gambler" in his hometown of Davao City.
"Tinawagan ko ‘yan siya. Sinabi ko, 'Atong, ikaw ang number one na gambler dito sa Davao. Hawak mo lahat. Huwag tayong magbolahan. Pumunta ka doon sa PCSO, hintuin mo ‘yang lahat ng illegal at tulungan mo ang gobyerno,'" said Duterte.
(I called him. I said, 'Atong, you are the number one gambler here in Davao. You control everything. Let's not kid ourselves. Go to the PCSO, stop all the illegal activities and help the government.)
The President then claimed that was the "only" reason why he spoke to Ang. Ang had previously spoken about his call with the President. He had also said Duterte asked for his help.
Duterte, on Wednesday, also recalled discouraging Ang, years ago, against setting up a Jai Alai facility in Davao City.
"I told him, 'We're friends. Don't force it. We will just fight. I don't want a conflict with you but if you force that Jai Alai in Davao..." he said without finishing his sentence.
Ang vs generals
That day, Ang spoke at a Senate hearing which tackled Small Town Lottery (STL) and other issues plaguing the PCSO.
Ang has clashed with PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan and resigned PCSO chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz over who should be operating STL, a type of gambling regulating by government that seeks to replace illegal numbers game jueteng.
Both are former generals appointed by Duterte.
Ang alleged that Balutan and Corpuz were underdeclaring revenue generated by STL operations, putting the government at a disadvantage.
Balutan and Corpuz, meanwhile, claim that Ang just wants control over STL. Balutan said that weeks after they were appointed into the PCSO, Ang offered them P200 million a month if they would give him control over STL nationwide.
Balutan said Ang is yet to settle millions in unpaid taxes.
He also claimed that PCSO board member Sandra Cam, a friend of Ang's and a former "jueteng" whistleblower, wants his position in order to give Ang control over STL.
It was Cam who went public with the multi-million price tag of the PCSO Christmas Party which led to bad press for Balutan and Corpuz.
Ang vs Aguirre, Esperon
Ang has also locked horns with no less than Duterte's Cabinet officials – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Ang accused the justice chief and Esperon of plotting to kill him. Ang claimed Aguirre and his brother control the government's 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.
Aguirre ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe Ang's claims. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.