PUNCHLINE

Disjointed campaign vs. illegal gambling

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

 

WHEN news of the NBI raid in Urbiztondo town and the subsequent arrests of Meridien Vista Gaming Corp’s employees reached me, for a minute, I sincerely thought the Duterte administration was finally making headway in the President’s campaign against illegal gambling in the country, or at least in Pangasinan.

Well, it did for a moment until the damper came from the provincial prosecutor. The irony of it all was the prosecutor’s office is under the wings of the Department of Justice, and so is NBI!

And one for the framers of the Executive Order No. 13 was the DOJ Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre himself!

I’m afraid the prosecutor who dismissed the case will have to answer to the President’s alter ego who’s gung ho about the campaign contra illegal drugs.

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MISSING THE POINT. The prosecutor may have been right to uphold the position of Meridien, claiming legality of its operations.

What the prosecutor, however, failed (or refused?) to evaluate were the evidence presented by NBI, that the raided operation was in fact, jueteng, and not about jai-alai. At the very least, the seized paraphernalia were obviously about jueteng and therefore constituted illegal gambling.

The raid in Urbiztondo was not lost to the jueteng afficionados in the province. Everyone talked about the cabos/cobradores being caught red-handed by the raiding agents.

How can the prosecutor overlook the evidence when everyone else knew what was going on?

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JUETENG, NOT MERIDIEN. The prosecutor could have very well tested the arrested employees how much they know about the jai-alai game. My bet is they know nothing, not even know the names of the players, nor the words used in playing the game.

But obviously the prosecutor was not interested in the context of E.O. 13!

If then Presiding Judge A. Florentino Dumlao Jr. of the Regional Trial Court Branch 42 in Dagupan City already stopped Meridien’s operations in Pangasinan in August 2016 when he issued a writ of preliminary injunction against Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation, specifically, to refrain from engaging in jai-alai and other forms of illegal gambling in Pangasinan, managed or operated by said group, how could the prosecutor not see through the purpose of the warrant and the raid?

Mr. Prosecutor, the core issue here is illegal gambling. That it was the Meridien employees, whose company has a claim to legitimate business operations albeit questionable, that were caught operating jueteng should have been enough reason to file the charges against the employees. The case of declaring the Meridien’s operations as illegal is another issue being decided by the Supreme Court (?).

I hope NBI’s Atty. Dante Bonoan will file a motion for reconsideration to enlighten the prosecutor (for the latter’s sake!).

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BET-BUST COBRADORES. The NBI should not stop applying for search warrants against all Meridien off-fronton outlets in the province, and raid these at will.

Hopefully, the Pangasinan police will soon do its own tokhang contra illegal gambling.  The neighborhoods know who the block’s jueteng collectors are.  Like their buy-bust operations against illegal drugs, the same strategy can be launched across the province to arrest the Meridien’s ‘jai-alai’ (jueteng) collectors.  Call it “Bet-Bust”!

And hopefully, too, the prosecutors’ in the province will finally realize that they have a standing order – to help stop the illegal gambling in the country as well –  or risk being named by President Duterte himself as protectors of illegal gambling.

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STILL NO MANDATORY DRUG TESTS. Going by Manila Mayor Erap Estrada’s initiatives to support the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs, the mayors in Pangasinan have yet to demonstrate their level of support for the campaign in addition to their lip service.

Mayor Estrada had ordered the mandatory drug testing of all officials in 270 barangays in Manila!

How many mayors in Pangasinan have ordered the mandatory testing of even just their barangay kapitans?

Until all the barangay kapitans in the province have been subjected to drug testing, I’m afraid they will continue to be suspected of being among the 40% of protectors of illegal drugs among the kapitans in the country named by President Duterte.

The provincial board already passed a resolution early last year but the communities have not been favored with positive actions from their respective kapitans. Is there no one among our board members, mayors and kapitans who lead by example?

Guv Pogi already did his part but failed to prod others to follow his example. Surely, just a word from him will be enough to make them form a beeline to the PNP laboratory!

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NO INVESTIGATION OF LAND-GRABBING? Last month, P/Superintendent Neil Miro, erstwhile Dagupan police chief, found himself in serious needless trouble in Dagupan City because he was induced to take over a piece of government land by the beachfront in Bonuan Binloc ostensibly for the establishment of a police outpost.

The idea was quickly shot down by Mayor Belen Fernandez because it was downright illegal and it amounted to land-grabbing. But many believe that Mr. Miro could not have thought of it on his own unless he was egged on by Bonuan Binloc kapitan Pedro Gonzalez.

It will be recalled that Mr. Gonzalez was already implicated in the land-grabbing cases in his barangay exposed sometime in 2012-13. All the claimants pointed to kapitan as the one who gave the go-signal to occupy portions of the beachfront.

Mr. Miro could not have been possibly emboldened as to claim a land for whatever purpose on his own without the say-so of Kapitan Gonzales.

Mr. Gonzales was never investigated by the city council or the city legal officer during Mayor Benjie Lim’s term.  So, the public has been kept in the dark all these years about the series of scandalous land-grabbing in Bonuan Binloc.

Many now wonder why the members of the city council today, majority of whom are allies of Mayor Belen, have not called in Kap Gonzales to be investigated or questioned at very least on the latest foiled land grabbing incident in his barangay.

As British statesman Edmund Burke once said: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

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KUDOS TO P/SR. SUPT. LEE. Congratulations to P/Sr. Superintendent Ronald Lee on his permanent appointment finally as provincial director of the Pangasinan police!!  Well done and well deserved!

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