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Who Is Atong Ang Again?

Lest the nation forget, here are some facts about the man.
ILLUSTRATOR Roland Mae Tanglao
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Charlie Tiu Hay Sy Ang, more commonly known as Atong Ang, rose to national prominence in 2001 when he became a co-accused (and subsequently jailed) in then President Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s impeachment trial. According to a report by Rappler, Ang triggered Estrada’s impeachment.

The report said Ang triggered the rift between Estrada and then Ilocos Sur Governor and jueteng lord Luis “Chavit” Singson. Estrada allegedly gave Ang the green light to operate jueteng, which threatened to put Singson out of his illegal business. Jueteng is an illegal numbers game played by selecting two numbers ranging from 1 to 37. It is a type of small town lottery, in which bettors can play for as low as one peso.

A failed attempt on Singson’s life set in motion the events on Estrada’s impeachment and eventual ouster from office. Singson turned on Estrada and Ang by becoming a star witness for the impeachment’s prosecution. Singson accused Ang and Estrada of pocketing P130 million from tobacco excise taxes.

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Atong Ang in the U.S. 

After Estrada’s ouster in 2001, Ang fled to the U.S., where he was caught gambling in Las Vegas. Ang posted a $300,000 bail, citing political persecution. He remained in the US under house arrest, then was extradited to the Philippines in 2006.

Ang agreed to a plea bargain by admitting to the lesser offense of corrupting public officials. He admitted that he diverted P130 million tobacco excise tax for Ilocos Sur, and personally delivered it to Estrada. This validated the testimony of Singson. Part of the plea bargain was to return the P25 million he earned as commission from diverting the tobacco excise tax.

In 2009, the Sandiganbayan Special Division formally declared Ang’s probation terminated.

“All civil rights lost or suspended on account of his conviction are hereby restored. The Hold Departure Order issued on April 25, 2005 against Charlie ‘Atong’ Ang y Tiu Hay in this case is ordered lifted,” read the court order. After serving two years of probation, Ang was officially declared a free man.

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While on probation, Ang supposedly worked as consultant to a Cambodian gaming firm and a local gaming firm, Lucky Tytanium Corporation, a small town lottery operator in Cavite.

Atong Ang: "I’m a Gambling Lord, But a Legal One"

In 2010, the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago tagged Ang as one of the country’s top jueteng operators. Ang denied the claims, saying he is against illegal gambling. He admitted working as consultant for gaming firm Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation, which operates jai alai, not jueteng, in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Free Port.

Ang admitted to being a gambling lord, but only for legal games. “Ever since the start, I’ve never been involved with illegal gambling,” said Ang.

What are the Businesses of Atong Ang Nowadays?

Ang is renowned for elevating the industry of cockfighting in the Philippines. He co-founded the Ultimate Fighting Cock Championship (UFCC), and has rebranded himself as a cockfighting enthusiast. He finances cockfighting teams and sends them in high-roller competitions. UFCC’s goal is to promote discipline, respect, sportsmanship and camaraderie among cock-fighting fans.

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Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. (MVGC), the gaming company in which Ang is a consultant, is said to be earning as much as P50 million a day from jai alai and other gambling, prompting the Bureau of Internal Revenue to conduct an investigation.

In 2017, Ang resurfaced on national news when he accused then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon of attempting to have him killed. Ang told media that Aguirre and Esperon want him dead so they could control small-town lottery operations in Batangas, Laguna, and Bicol. Months later, the issue died out when Ang professed his unwavering support for Duterte after a courtesy call at Aguirre’s office.

In a speech in January 2018, Duterte revealed he had reached out to Ang and asked him to help the government stop illegal gambling. In his speech, Duterte referred to Ang as the “number one gambler”. “I called him up. I said, ‘Atong, you’re the number one gambler here in Davao. You control everything. Let’s be frank with each other. Go to PCSO, and stop all those illegal (operations) and help the government,’” said Duterte.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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