PNP: Meridien’s jai-alai still untouchable

WAR ON ILLEGAL GAMBLING

THE war on drugs is ablaze again but the same cannot be said in the war on illegal gambling in the province.

Pangasinan Police Provincial Offices’ acting-Director, P/Sr. Supt. Ronald Oliver Lee, admitted it cannot go after the off-fronton jai-alai operations because Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation has filed a petition for a permanent injunction before the Supreme Court seeking to protect its off-fronton betting stations.

This, he told the KBP Forum, on March 9 why Pangasinan police cannot stop and arrest Meridien’s employees.

Meridien is owned by Charlie ‘Atong’ Ang, and its off-fronton betting stations are reportedly fronting for jueteng, an illegal numbers game, the object of a nationwide campaign launched by President Duterte in a bid to stop corruption.

The legal battle reportedly before the high tribunal is over the issue whether Meridien’s license to operate jai alai off-fronton betting stations can extend outside Cagayan Export Zone Authority (CEZA), specifically in the province of Pangasinan, said Lee.

Deputy Provincial Director for Operations, P/Supt. Jackie Candelario, said the policemen will be in trouble, like other policemen who attempted, if they move ahead of the decision of the SC.

Noting the petition before the Supreme Court, Lee said the police in Pangasinan can not do anything but to observe the status quo, which means they can not operate against the off-fronton jai alai betting stations of Meridien.

Lee said he can order the closure and arrest of Meridien’s employees once he receives the order from higher headquarters directing them to stop the jail alai betting stations of Meridien, which he added must state clearly that the legal question about the issue concerning Meridien’s license has already been settled.

He recalled that many policemen were already dismissed and suspended when they moved against those involved in jai alai operations in their respective areas when the TRO was still existing and in effect.

He cited the case of policemen in Bicol who stopped the jai alai games of Meredian and were promptly sued in Cagayan, and were compelled to attend weekly hearings in that province.

Lee clarified that the prescribed period for the claimed TRO has already lapsed, instead there is the petition for permanent injunction.

He said if member of the Pangasinan police is sued, where shall he get his money to pay for his fare and expenses in going to Cagayan to and fro weekly, he intoned.

Aside from this harassment, the sued policemen were even threatened bodily if they attend the hearings.

Lee also cited earlier the question of business permits issued to Meridien’s operations by towns and cities that also legitimized the jai-alai operations. (Leonardo Micua)