MANILA, Philippines - The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) is now looking into the bank accounts of jueteng lords.
“The council has started monitoring and investigating the bank deposits of all jueteng operators who have been mentioned in the Senate investigation and in media reports,” Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab said yesterday while defending the council’s P9.6-million budget for 2011.
Ungab, appropriations committee vice chairman, was responding to questions raised by Reps. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City and Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa.
Ungab was assisted by AMLC officials in answering questions, since the latter are now allowed by House rules to provide answers directly.
Before Ungab took the floor, the House approved the budgets of the Department of Trade and Industry, National Youth Commission, Games and Amusements Board, and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which were defended by another appropriations committee vice chairperson, Malabon Rep. Jaye Lacson-Noel.
Except for Rodriguez, who inquired briefly about cases the SEC has filed against the shuttered Legacy group of pre-need companies, none of Lacson-Noel’s colleagues asked her about the agencies she was handling.
“Let’s approve the budgets of these agencies without asking questions in deference to Jaye and the chairman of the committee on accounts,” one colleague said.
He was referring to Lacson-Noel’s husband Florencio, representative of the party-list group An Waray and who handles the committee that manages House funds.
During the question-and-answer session on the AMLC budget, Ungab refused to identify the jueteng lords whose bank deposits he said the council was looking into, saying the law prescribes confidentiality.
“They have been mentioned in the Senate investigation on jueteng,” he said.
“Is Bong Pineda one of them?” Biazon asked.
“He was one of those mentioned,” Ungab said.
Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda has long been suspected to be a big-time jueteng operator. He comes from Lubao, Pampanga, hometown of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who now represents the province’s second district.
Mrs. Arroyo is a kumare of Pineda and his wife Lilia, governor of the province.
Responding to Rodriguez, Ungab said the AMLC has so far not frozen any of the bank accounts of illegal gambling operators.
This prompted the Mindanao lawmaker to say the council “is a big failure.”
“These jueteng lords have been investigated in previous years. They are known to be illegal gambling operators and amassing enormous wealth in cash and assets. And yet the law has not caught up with any of them,” he said.
Jess Diaz, Philippine Star