WATCH | DOJ chief orders BIR to look into Atong Ang, Meridien’s possible tax violations

May 3, 2017 - 10:19 PM
File photos of Charlie "Atong" Ang and DOJ chief Vitaliano Aguirre.

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to investigate on the possible tax liability of controversial businessman Charlie “Atong” Ang and jai-alai operator Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation, where Ang is a consultant.

In a May 2, 2017 letter addressed to BIR Commissioner Cesar R. Dulay, DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said the order was in support of the agency’s program, Run After Tax Evaders (RATE).

“I trust that greater cooperation and confidence between the Department (of Justice) and the BIR will be forthcoming in our government’s efforts to curb corruption and criminality in the country, particularly in cases of tax evasion,” Aguirre said in the letter.

Also last Tuesday, the DOJ chief ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate Ang’s accusations against him and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

Aguirre asked the NBI to submit their report in his office within 15 days.

Ang vs Esperon, Aguirre, NBI

In a televised interview on April 28, Ang accused Esperon and Aguirre of plotting to assassinate him so the two Cabinet officials could control small-town lottery (STL) operations in certain provinces.

The controversial businessman said Meridien’s virtual jai-alai numbers game, which he admittedly managed, was allegedly in conflict with Aguirre’s supposed STL operations with his brother Ogie Aguirre in provinces in Southern Luzon.

Ang also alleged that Esperon was working with generals to control STL operations in North Luzon, particularly in Pangasinan, Esperon’s home province.

He also accused Aguirre and Esperon of using men from the NBI and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to intimidate and harass bet collectors from operating.

Ang, a former consultant of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, said he got these reports about Aguirre and Esperon from his friends at the NBI who had advised him to be cautious because there was an alleged order to kill him.

Ang urged President Rodrigo Duterte to look into the allegations against Aguirre and Esperon. He said he was ready to face congressional inquiries and share more details about the issue.

Aguirre, Esperon, NBI, PCSO deny Ang’s allegations

The DOJ chief likewise dismissed Ang’s claims and said that he just wanted to get back at him after he ordered the raid of Fontana Leisure Park that exposed the online illegal gambling operations of Ang’s business partner Jack Lam.

Earlier, Esperon said “it is very likely that” Ang “is concocting tall tales again as in past years or is simply paranoid, which is typical of people who engage in illegal activities.”

For its part, the NBI said Ang’s claims might be related to a series of operations that the bureau had conducted in Isabela. In a statement issued Tuesday, the NBI mentioned the arrest of about 40 individuals linked to Meridien last April 19 in Ilagan, Isabela.

The NBI said it made the arrests based on the request by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to help it stop illegal gambling and other numbers games in Isabela “using or based on jai-alai.”

The NBI denied any involvement in the alleged harassment against Ang.

“(T)he alleged threat that Charlie “Atong” Ang said in an interview is baseless and without merit and just a product of his own wild imaginations,” the NBI said in a press statement issued Tuesday.

“(T)he NBI is a professional organization that adheres to high moral and ethical standards and its Officials and Agents will not be involved in highly unethical an illegal activities as alleged by Ang,” added the agency, which is under the DOJ’s supervision.

PCSO Chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz also belied Ang’s claim that STL operations were being controlled by some personalities and assured that measures were in place to prevent irregularities.

“PCSO once again reiterated that the selection of STL authorized agent corporations undergo a stringent process following its revised implementing rules and regulations,” Corpuz said.

“Thus, Mr. Atong Ang’s claim that STL operations are being controlled by certain personality is impossible since monitoring and control are in place within PCSO for STL implementation,” he added.

Corpuz also defended Aguirre and Esperon, saying it was unlikely for the two “committed public servants” to be behind the alleged attempts to kill Ang.

Esperon and Corpuz are both graduates of the Philippine Military Academy. Esperon belongs to the Marangal Class of 1974 while Corpuz is from Sandigan Class of 1982.

Last February, the PCSO also directed Meridien to stop its numbers game operations that were competing with STL operations in Albay because the firm’s franchise was only effective in areas within the Cagayan Economic Zone.