Pangasinan governor charged with plunder

MANILA, Philippines - Five months before the May 2013 elections, an outgoing mayor filed plunder charges against Pangasinan Gov Amado Espino Jr. before the Office of the Ombudsman Friday over the latter's alleged involvement in the illegal numbers game "jueteng."

In a sworn statement, Mayor Rodrigo Orduna of Bugallon town called Espino, his former patron, the "Big Boss" of jueteng in Pangasinan who has received P800 to P900 million in jueteng money.

Espino has refused to comment on the charges. A source close to him said he's still consulting his lawyers and that he will answer the "false charges" in due time.

Orduna, who admitted to receiving jueteng money, described himself as the group's "trouble shooter."

During Espino's stint in Congress, he allegedly ordered Orduna to collect protection money from jueteng operators in Pangasinan, including from a certain Romy Lahara. When Orduna met with the operators, they agreed to give Espino P3 million a month divided into four weeks or P750,000 a week. The payoff was made every Saturday, as requested allegedly by Espino, according to Orduna.

In 2007, when Espino was elected governor, his take reportedly increased to P10 million, receiving P2.5 million every Saturday, based on Orduna's testimony.

Motive not important

Roxas is president of the Liberal Party, which is fielding former Alaminos Mayor Hernani Braganza in a one-on-one fight with the re-electionist Espino.

Pangasinan has about P1.6 million voters, the second biggest in the country in terms of voting population.

Roxas directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to immediately relieve all police officers in Pangasinan, including the provincial director, Senior Supt Mariano Versoza. Roxas said he will conduct a separate probe on the matter.

Before this, Roxas announced that Pangasinan is one of the 15 provinces with the highest risk of having election-related violence. 

Roxas said the motive behind Orduna's decision to come out was not important at this point and vowed to immediately resolve the matter.

Orduna said it was understandable if people would assume he was implicating Espino due to the upcoming elections. "But it just so happened that I only recently mustered the courage to tell all," he said in Filipino.

Orduna narrated that his relationship with Espino started in 2001, when Espino was running for a congressional seat in Pangasinan. Espino reportedly asked him for "support." Orduna obliged and said he helped Espino win a seat in Congress.

A source close to Espino, however, said Orduna, a former Army sergeant, was recruited by Espino and fielded him as mayor of Bugallon in 2004. Now that his term is expiring, he is running for vice mayor. His running mate will be up against Espino's youngest child Jumel. - Rappler.com