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Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte on Friday challenged former Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez and his supposed protege, Negros Oriental Rep. Arnie Teves, to explain their alleged links to illegal e-gambling.

The Camarines Sur lawmaker said the Negros lawmakers should explain that to the public “instead of resorting to squid tactics just to camouflage their participation” in a “sinister ploy” hatched by the camp of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to wreck efforts by the House leadership to pass the 2021 budget by the end of September.

Villafuerte issued this statement as he asserted that contrary to Benitez’s allegation, the construction of the P420 million provincial capitol of CamSur was “above board” and a “necessity.”

He argued that the local government sought funding support from Malacañang three years ago to build what turned out to be a “cutting edge, environment-friendly structure to replace the long-condemned provincial building.”

“Rather than act like sanctimonious moralists in waxing eloquent about public accountability and good governance, former congressman Benitez and his flunky, Rep. Teves, should explain to the public their suspected ties to Sabong International, ( an Internet-based cockfighting or e-Sabong site on social media flagged by Pagcor itself and which supposedly caters to both local and offshore-based players,” Villafuerte said.

Citing a Pagcor report, Villafuerte said that in the absence of a law authorizing the placing online of bets on cockfights staged in the Philippines, such betting has been construed in a report by a top executive of this state-run gaming firm as a form of illegal gambling.

Villafuerte said: “Benitez and Teves should explain to the public whether they are indeed connected to Sabong International.”

During DPWH’s budget briefing Thursday (September 18), Teves claimed Camarines Sur has been allotted P11.8 billion for infrastructure projects, while Taguig, which is controlled by the Cayetanos, will get P8 billion.

In a statement on Thursday, Villafuerte accused Teves of conniving with Benitez “to wreck” Cayetano’s plan to rush the approval of the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.

Villafuerte described Teves “as the protege of Benitez, the former solon who has delusions of being a kingmaker to Velasco and titular head of the Visayas bloc of legislators even if he is no longer an incumbent representative from Negros.”

In response, Benitez turned the tables on Villafuerte, saying he should explain why Camarines Sur was allotted P11.8 billion for infrastructure projects.

“If the good Congressman is morally certain that his budget will pass the public’s scrutiny, then prove us all wrong. Be transparent with your own district’s budget,” he said.

Benitez challenged Villafuerte to “account for every peso and centavo” in the allocations.
“Sa panahon ng Covid-19, where resources are scarce and people are struggling to survive, it is only right that we demand answers to legitimate questions,” he said.

“If you have nothing to hide, explain to the Filipino people why the national government has to shoulder the construction of your provincial capitol that costs more than P420 million?” Benitez said.

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