The name of Charlie “Atong” Ang, a notorious gambling operator, floated on social media this week following President Rodrigo Duterte’s cease-and-desist order against small-town lotteries due to alleged massive corruption.
Some Filipinos revived reports on Duterte’s pitch for Ang to help the government curb corruption in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office or PCSO during the congressional investigation on the irregularities within the agency in January 2018.
With a vague reason, Duterte admitted that he called up Ang to assign this task despite knowing his gambling operations in Davao City.
“Ito si Atong, I was hearing, tinawag siya, tinawagan ko ’yan siya (he was called, I called him). Sinabi ko (I told him), ‘Atong, ikaw ang number one na gambler dito sa Davao (you are the number one gambler here in Davao),” he said back then.
“Hawak mo lahat. Huwag tayong magbolahan. Pumunta ka roon sa PCSO, hintuin mo ’yang lahat ng ilegal at tulungan mo ang gobyerno (You hold everything. Let’s not fool each other. Go to PCSO, stop all the illegal activities there and help the government),” he added.
The president did not indicate the time nor reveal other details of their conversation.
Around that time, Ang was already rumored to be interested in PCSO affairs for his jueteng operations through local lotteries.
More than a year later, his name once again cropped up after the controversial closure of lottery outlets across the country.
Dec 2017 – Former PCSO manager Alexander Balutan says Atong Ang offers P200M per month to the PCSO to take control of STL operations.
Feb 2018 – Duterte admits he sought the help of Atong Ang to help govt fix all illegal gambling activities.
So, kailangan pa ba ang Math dito? https://t.co/dwOQEQLjnO
— shamrocker☘ (@shamrocker_oo_) July 28, 2019
So far, there’s no certainty on what will happen to the thousands of Filipinos who suddenly lost their jobs due to the shutdown and to the beneficiaries of the charity projects the PCSO had been giving aid to.
Malacañang argued that charities of the PCSO will be taken over by the PAGCOR for now despite not being in its mandate.
Who is Atong Ang?
Ang, who was then a gambling consultant of PAGCOR, made headlines when he was implicated as among those accused of plunder against deposed President Joseph Estrada in 2001.
His gambling activities, including the Bingo 2-ball, figured in a turf war against that of Luis “Chavit” Singson, Estrada’s former partner.
This eventually triggered Singson’s pivotal turnaround and blew the whistle on Estrada’s alleged deep involvement in jueteng—an illegal numbers game—and the payola or payoffs worth millions of pesos he purportedly received throughout his short-term presidency.
Ang was soon arrested after Estrada’s downfall following a four-day dramatic people’s march known as the EDSA People Power II. Not long after, Estrada got pardoned and Ang was freed.
Years later, Ang’s name surfaced again as an alleged corroborator of PCSO director Sandra Cam in the irregularities found in the agency.
Former PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan alleged that Cam and Ang sought to oust him from his position after he rejected Ang’s offer of P200 million worth of bribery in exchange for control of the entire small-town lottery system.
Balutan claimed that Cam bad-mouthed him to Duterte and later caused him to be stripped of his position.
However, Cam and Ang clapped back that it was Balutan and former PCSO chairman Jose Jorge Corpus who ran the graft-ridden agency procedures.
Duterte has yet to mention Ang again after the closure of PCSO’s lottery games.