Isko Cries Harassment After 11-Hour Detention

MANILA, Philippines --- Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and five of his political allies yesterday walked free from a Manila police precinct jail after being detained for 11 hours as a Manila prosecutor junked the illegal gambling charges that the police lodged against them last Saturday.

Moreno - the running mate of former President and now Manila mayoralty candidate Joseph Estrada in the May 13, 2013, midterm elections - was released from prison at around 5 a.m., Sunday, after Chief Inquest Prosecutor Elaine Yarra-Cerezo junked the charges against him and five of his allies due to lack of evidence.

Also ordered released from prison were Councilors Joel Chua, Ma. Asuncion Fugoso, Yul Servo Nieto, and Manuel Zarcal.

''Finally, we were released by Fiscal Cerezo for insufficiency of evidence. Thank you for your prayers and support. It shows we did nothing wrong,'' Moreno said in his Twitter account.

The Manila vice mayor likewise posted on his Twitter account photos of the bruises he got during their arrest the other day.

In a separate interview, Moreno maintained that he and five of his political allies did not violate any law or even the Omnibus Election Code. Moreno insisted that Republic Act No. 9287, which amends PD 1602, excludes bingo as among the prohibited acts of gambling.

The arrested Manila officials described their apprehension as ''politically motivated.''

''It's a plain, clean and simple fanfare,'' Moreno said. ''This harassment was not the first time. They even executed a peace covenant with us and now, here comes another political harassment,'' Moreno said.

''We will fight all hoodlums... those who have been throwing their weight around because of the belief that they are the law. We should always remember that we are in a civilized society where tyrants have no place,'' he added.

On Saturday, police collared Moreno and his allies for holding a bingo game in Santa Cruz, Manila which the police claimed was not sanctioned by the government. The incident came a day after candidates in the Manila local elections signed a ''peace covenant.''

Supt. Ricardo Layug said they confiscated bingo cards bearing Moreno's name and that of his running mate, Estrada.

Moreno said they have been holding bingo games for five years already but were arrested only now. He insisted that they were not violating any laws and that the bingo game was legal.

The Vice Mayor, who sustained bruises after he was dragged by policemen, described the arrest and the ensuing scuffle as similar to ''martial law.''

''When I came, the policemen said gambling is not permitted and we asked them why. We explained there is no money involved, this is just fanfare. The people became angry at the policemen and there was chaos so we decided to go with the police peacefully so no one would get hurt... It was like martial law here in the city of Manila,'' Moreno said.

The five arrested persons were brought to the Manila Prosecutors Office for Inquest at around 4 a.m. yesterday.

Sought for comment, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim denied giving orders to Manila policemen to arrest Moreno and his allies due to illegal gambling.

He, however, defended and commended the police officers who arrested the Vice Mayor and his allies, saying the law enforcers are only doing their mandated job to ensure that Manila remains gambling-free.

Citing the report he received, Lim said the police officer tried to talk to Moreno in a peaceful manner and asked him to stop the illegal bingo game but the Vice Mayor did not heed their request.

''Eh ang problema, ayaw nilang tumigil. Anong gagawin ng mga pulis? Sila ang tagpagpatupad ng batas, tapos ako ang dinadamay?'' Lim pointed out.

''Ano ba ito, gagawa ka ng krimen tapos 'pag hinuli ka, ang ituturo mo ako? Hinahaluan ng pulitika ito. Hindi maganda iyon. Harapin lang nila 'yung katotohanan. Eh di kwestyunin nila kung illegal yung arrest,'' he said.

On the claims that the bingo games had become a tradition in Manila for five years now, Lim said: ''Kasinungalingan 'yan. Nagulat nga ako nung sinabi niya na limang taon na daw niyang ginagawa eh. Wala silang ginagawang bingo. May bingong nangyayari doon sa mga pamilya, sa bahay-bahay. 'Yung ina-allow 'yung sa pamilya lang, pero ito open to the public.''

''Illegal gambling kung hindi pamilya ang naglalaro. Pag pamilya, exempted. Ibig sabihin naandon kayo sa loob ng bahay, nagkakatuwaan kayo, parang parlor games. Sabi nila, napanood ko sa TV, 2,000 daw ang taong naroon eh. Paano naging family game iyon?''