Duterte: I asked 'top gambler' Atong Ang to help PCSO

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 25) — President Rodrigo Duterte asked for help from businessman Atong Ang in ridding the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) of illegal activities.

In a speech before he left to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - India Summit on Wednesday, Duterte said he called Ang to make the request.

"Tinawagan ko 'yan siya. Sinabi ko, 'Atong, ikaw ang number one na gambler dito sa Davao. Hawak mo lahat,' " Duterte said in a speech on Wednesday before leaving to attend the   "Pumunta ka doon sa PCSO, hintuin mo 'yang lahat ng illegal at tulungan mo ang gobyerno."

[Translation: "I called him. I said, 'Atong you are the number one gambler here in Davao. You hold everything. Go to PCSO, stop everything illegal and help the government."]

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), a government-owned and controlled corporation under the Office of the President which raises funds for the poor through sweepstakes and lottery games, has been under fire for its extravagant multi-million parties.

READ: PCSO defends party budget; says cost was even trimmed

As Duterte was speaking, Ang was at a Senate hearing on the proposal to update the PCSO charter and controversies hounding the agency. He was invited as a resource person.

Ang told senators there is no more "jueteng" – an illegal numbers game – but only because gambling lords use the government-sanctioned small town lottery (STL) as a front.

He accused PCSO officials of fooling Duterte and the public on the actual revenues from STL operations, claiming the government is losing millions of pesos.

RELATED: Lacson to PCSO: If you can't control small town lottery, might as well ban it

Duterte said he discouraged his "friend," Ang, from starting jai-alai operations in Davao City when he was mayor.  Results of jai-alai matches were often used for gambling purposes.

"Sabi ko sa kanya, 'kaibigan tayo. Huwag mong pilitin 'yan. Mag-aaway lang tayo,'" Duterte recalled.

[Translation: "I told him, 'we're friends. Do not insist on that or we will have a fight.'"]

Controversial gambler

Ang was a consultant of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation in regulating jai-alai operations during the term of former President Joseph Estrada.

He was then accused of helping Estrada amass billions of pesos from illegal gambling operations and kickbacks from government transactions. He fled to the U.S. but was extradited. Estrada was charged with plunder, while Ang pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of corrupting public officials.

Ang admitted to pocketing P25 million of the P130-million tobacco excise tax funds he delivered directly to Estrada's residence in Greenhills. This aided in Estrada's ouster in 2001.

The late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago also noted in a speech in September 2010 that Ang is one of the country's top five jueteng operators, a claim Ang has repeatedly denied.  He insistesd  he never engaged in illegal gambling.

CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.