What initially began as an accusation against a provincial governor by a town mayor is shaping into something much bigger involving powerful and highly influential individuals in the Philippines.
Days after Bugallon Mayor Rodrigo Orduna disclosed the alleged involvement of Pangasinan governor Amado Espino Jr. in the continuing jueteng operations in the country, the former also pointed to three men he claimed were the “Three Kings” of jueteng, including former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, the husband of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
According to Orduna, Arroyo, together with former DILG chief Ronaldo Puno, and whoever was the head of the Philippine National Police, were all receiving protection money from the operators of jueteng in Pangasinan. In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Orduna disclosed the identities of the so-called Three Kings, all three of whom received regular payoffs from the jueteng operators. The “plantila”, or as its otherwise known, “the blue book”, contained the names of Arroyo, Puno, the PNP chief, and a list of other individuals that received hand-offs in exchange, we presume, for their silence. In addition to the aforementioned names, Orduna also noted: “We also gave a portion of our daily collections to the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the PNP) and members of the media, both local and national,” he said.
It’s not the first time former DILG secretary Puno’s name was thrown into the fire. Orduna’s accusations was similar to the one made by a former archbishop in the country, who specifically named Puno and then PNP Director General Jesus Versoza as having coddled the gambling syndicates and were paid in the millions to keep everything hush-hush. Those sentiments were also echoed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago who said at the time that the interior secretary and the police chief were the “prime beneficiaries and ultimate protectors of jueteng.”
Explosive as Orduna’s allegations are, there is one caveat that could derail his credibility: his admission that he never actually saw Arroyo, Puno, and any of the PNP chiefs receive the money, “assuming” – a credibility diffuser if there ever was one – that the three were in the hook on the protection money because of the relative inaction of the police in chasing after the operators of the illegal numbers game.
The money was just given to the collectors who, in turn, delivered them to the Three Kings,” Orduna told the PDI.
Meanwhile, Ferdinand Topacio, a lawyer representing the former First Gentleman, replied to an e-mail from the Inquirer and labeled Orduna’s claims as “baseless finger-pointing and blame-laying.”
“It besmirches the name of Arroyo, whose name has been endlessly maligned but whose involvement in any illegal activity has yet to be proven in any proceedings in his entire life,” Topacio added.
Current DILG secretary Mar Roxas, the man Orduna turned to with his allegations, is determined to crack down on the illegal numbers game and has instructed the current PNP administration to go after the perps with a vengeance. Whether this leads all the way up the former First Gentleman remains to be seen, but it appears like there’s a lot more to this whole scandal than meets the eye.