Arroyo's son accused in gambling probe - Sunday 12th of June 2005

MANILA: President Gloria Arroyo’s son and the Philippines’ police chief were yesterday accused of either taking kickbacks or sanctioning a numbers racket as the senate launched a controversial probe into illegal gambling.The public hearings sought to determine the effect of the so-called “jueteng? lottery on the government’s anti-corruption campaign, four years after a military-backed popular revolt toppled Arroyo’s predecessor Joseph Estrada in a similar scandal.

No one knows just how much money goes into “jueteng? each year but local media reports put the figure in excess of $500 million.Self-confessed “jueteng? operator Wilfredo Mayor, testifying under a pledge of immunity from the senate, said under oath he paid eight million pesos ($147,000) monthly, or 17 per cent of turnover, to various officials as protection money between 1995 and 2003.Among others, he said he gave a one-time payment of 600,000 pesos ($11,000) to a middleman who claimed to represent Arroyo’s eldest son Juan Miguel Arroyo, a member of the House of Representatives.Mayor said he launched a numbers racket operation free of police harassment in northern Pangasinan province in 2001 several days after he visited the current national police chief, Arturo Lomibao, then the region’s police chief.Lomibao told the hearing he had never met Mayor.Mayor said he also paid protection money every week to all three House of Representatives members for the three districts of central Albay province, where he also ran a “jueteng? operation.

Arroyo’s son had previously denied the allegations, which first surfaced in a Manila newspaper early this month.Mayor said he does not have physical or other evidence against the personalities he named.The Philippine president said in a statement later she supported the investigation and was taking the allegations seriously.“The allegations against my husband (Jose Miguel Arroyo), my son, and even against my brother in-in-law (House of Representatives member Ignacio Arroyo) are part of well-worn opposition tactics,? Arroyo said in a statement.“Though no proof has been offered, I am taking the allegations seriously and have asked for an intense investigation and will let the chips fall where they may.?

Though the president’s husband and his younger brother were not mentioned in yesterday’s testimony, both names have been mentioned in allegations carried by the Manila press since early this month.Estrada’s wife Luisa Ejercito and son Jose Ejercito, both senators, were both part of the senate panel yesterday. The young Ejercito is out on bail on charges of collecting “jueteng? kickbacks on behalf of his father.Interior Secretary Angelo Reyes, testifying at the public hearing, said that although he was required by law to enforce anti-gambling statutes, he personally wished Congress would pass a law to make the numbers game legal.

www.bahraintribune.com

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