Atong Ang: Aguirre, Esperon want me killed

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(From L-R) National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, gaming tycoon Charlie 'Atong' Ang, and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 28) — Gaming tycoon Charlie 'Atong' Ang said two Cabinet officials want him killed so they can control small-town lottery operations in several provinces in the country.

Ang named Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon – some of President Rodrigo Duterte's trusted men – as those behind attempts to have him killed.

The controversial businessman on Thursday told reporters Aguirre and Esperon want to eliminate him from the gaming scene so their STL operations can take over in certain provinces.

Ang admitted to running virtual jai-alai operations through the Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation at the Cagayan Freeport Zone.

Ang added, his friends from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had warned him on several occasions this week that there is a standing "kill" order against him.

"Dun ko nalaman na pina-titira kami talaga nitong mga ito. (Sabi sakin) Sir, mag-ingat po kayo, titirahin po kayo may utos po samin (That's how I knew that they want me killed. Someone told me, 'Take care, Sir, because there is an order to have you killed')," he said.

Aguirre and Esperon are supposedly using men from the NBI and the Philippine National Police to intimidate and assault Ang's men on the ground.

"Nandyan ang mga NBI lahat at tinatakot, hinaharass yung mga kubrador, na huwag mag-operate (NBI agents are there to scare and harass the bet collectors so they won't continue operating)," Ang said.

He said the two officials have ordered raids against the virtual jai-alai operations of Ang and other businessmen even if they have legitimate permits to operate.

Ang said Aguirre is working with his brother, a certain Engineer Ogie Aguirre, in controlling STL operations in southern provinces, including Laguna, Batangas, and Bicol.

Meanwhile, Esperon is supposedly working with other generals in controlling STL operations in the north, including Pangasinan.

Ang said Duterte can simply talk to local government officials from these provinces and they will confirm his allegations.

He also said Esperon is working with officials from the Philippine Military Academy "Sandigan" class of 1982, namely PCSO Chairman Jorge Corpuz, and PDEA Chief Isidro Lapeña.

Ang pleaded for Duterte's understanding, hoping the President would look into these allegations against members of his Cabinet.

"Mister President hindi po ako nakiki-usap sa inyo maski anong hanapbuhay, maski noong Mayor pa po kayo. Inuulit ko po, buhay ko po ang hinihingi ko sainyo (Mister President, I did not ask for work, even when you were Mayor. I am pleading for my life)," Ang said.

Related: Duterte starts fight against illegal gambling

Aguirre, Esperon deny 'kill' order

Aguirre and Esperon denied Ang's allegations and cast doubts on the credibility of "a known gambling lord."

"It is very likely that he is concocting tall tales or is simply paranoid which is typical of people who engage in illegal activities," Esperon said.

Meanwhile, Esperon said Ang should be able to present evidence and witnesses.

Aguirre said Ang's accusations are all lies and fabrications.

"I am ready to face any kind of investigation that might be conducted, be it legislative, criminal or administrative. I am not afraid as I have nothing to hide. My conscience is clear," the Justice Secretary said.

He added, Ang is seeking revenge because he ordered the raid on Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino, which is owned by Ang's "business partner and best friend," Macau-based gambling tycoon Jack Lam. The raid resulted in the apprehension of Chinese illegals working there.

"If there is anybody who could be accused of being engaged or being a protector of gambling, it is Atong Ang himself who everybody knows is the owner and the controlling interest of Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation, a company that is conducting gambling operations without paying the proper taxes due to the Philippine Government," Aguirre said.

Early last year, the Supreme Court allowed the continuous operation of the Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation, setting aside a Court of Appeals order for the company to cease operations after reports of massive fiscal losses in the small lotteries of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes' Office in North Cagayan.