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Manila Vice Mayor Francisco Damagoso and city officials freed after illegal gambling charge

Police team raided a “bingo social” event hosted by Damagoso and other officials

Gulf News

Manila: Vice Mayor Francisco Damagoso, known more popularly as Isko Moreno, was released by authorities around dawn Sunday, hours after he and several city officials were arrested by police for playing, bingo, a parlour game, in public.

Reports said Damagoso was booked Saturday afternoon for “illegal gambling” along with five other city councilors — Ernesto Isip Jr, Bernardito Ang, Joel Chua, Asuncion Fugoso and Yul Servo as well as former councilor Manuel Zarcal Jr.

A police team raided a “bingo social” event hosted by Damagoso and his allied city officials in Manila’s Santa Cruz district, triggering a standoff with authorities as supporters of the politicians vainly tried to prevent the arrest.

Several people were reportedly hurt in the melee.

Damagaso is former President Joseph Estrada’s running mate in the mid-term elections in May and the ex-leader immediately rushed to the Manila Vice Mayor’s.

The former President, said the raid had been “politically motivated.”

Damagoso is running in the elections under the banner of the opposition coalition Union of Nationalist Alliance (UNA) with Estrada who is making a bid for the mayoralty post.

Damagoso in his Twitter post, believes that he “did nothing wrong,” in hosting the event, which interestingly, was held during a political campaign period.

The vice mayor — who had been a film and TV actor before he made a foray into politics — was grateful for his release by a city court judge.

Normally, courts are closed during Saturdays and Sundays and individuals who had been filed cases had to wait for Monday for courts to convene.

“Finally we were released by Fiscal (Elaine) Cerezo for insufficiency of evidence!” he said on his Twitter post.

Damagoso, in television reports, had argued that he cannot be charged with illegal gambling as bingo, a card game that uses drawn lots, is considered a parlour game. It is often used as a game to raise funds for charity.

Damagoso suspects that incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim, a former ranking police official, is behind the arrests.

He said he and the other councillors and individuals injured in the incident are preparing charges against arresting police officers.

As May 13 elections draw near, politicians resort to more underhanded tactics to win in the polls. Despite the use of automated elections that somehow did away with typical tactics employed by those running in the polls, the Philippine electorate remains largely behind in terms of political maturity.