MANILA – Gaming consultant Charlie “Atong” Ang is either working with “destabilizers” against the Duterte administration, or is being used by Macau-based tycoon Jack Lam in revenge for the Justice department’s crackdown on his Fontana business.
That’s how Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre framed Thursday his escalating word war with Ang, who recently accused Aguirre and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon of plotting to have him killed.
According to Aguirre, Ang may be smearing him in retaliation for his agency’s crackdown on the allegedl illegal gambling operations of Lam, for whom Ang has served as consultant.
Lam has not returned to the Philippines since the government threatened to prosecute him for, among others, tax evasion in connection with the millions he allegedly failed to pay government from lucrative operations at Fontana in Clark Freeport, where he was for decades one of the biggest investors.
Aguirre, however, for a time got dragged into the mess when a Bureau of Immigration team raided Fontana and arrested hundreds of illegal Chinese workers. Two BI associate commissioners were fired amid allegations they had extorted P50 million from Lam’s group.
As for his row with Ang, in Aguirre’s view Ang may not just be settling a score on behalf of his business partner Lam: the colorful gambling figure Ang may also be seeking revenge because he suspects Aguirre of having ordered the recent raid on some of his businesses in three towns in Cagayan Valley and Tuguegarao City.
However, Aguirre stressed, it was the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), not the DOJ, that ordered the raids in Cagayan.
He thinks Ang is angry because the raids dented his image of invincibility in the gambling business.
The raids are also hurting the bottomline of Ang, said Aguirre, who estimated Ang is losing anywhere from 10-15 million pesos daily as a result of the crackdown.
Ang’s paranoia has led him to concoct the story earlier tagging him and Esperon as being behind a supposed plot to kill Ang, added Aguirre.
Meanwhile, Aguirre also linked Ang to a possible destabilization plot against the administration, citing information he received, which also linked Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to it.
He noted that right after Ang made his media statements tagging him and Esperon last week, Trillanes – a bitter critic of Duterte – called for a press conference.
Trillanes also filed a resolution to probe Ang’s allegations against Aguirre and Esperon.
The DOJ chief said Trillanes will just be wasting the time of senators with such an inquiry.
He also scoffed at the claim of Ang that he and Trillanes do not know each other personally and could not be conniving. Aguirre said, “tell that to the Marines!”
“This is a demolition job, but he [Ang] cannot demolish the President, so he’s targeting his subordinates,” Aguirre said, speaking in Filipino.
He said the main point is to destroy the President through his key people because of his political will in pushing reforms.
Aguirre said he will raise this issue before the Cabinet.
Brod ‘not into jueteng’
The DOJ chief also denied his brother is linked to illegal gambling, as claimed by Ang.
Ang had claimed that his brother Ogie Aguirre controls jueteng operations in some southern Luzon provinces. He said his brother, who retired two years ago from his work at an electric cooperative in Quezon province, is law-abiding.
Ogie also has no application with PCSO to operate a small town lottery business, said the DOJ chief. And even if he did apply, there’s nothing wrong with that because it’s a legitimate business.