STL stirs squabble between South Cotabato gov, police chief

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 25 Sep) – The bid to resume small town lottery (STL) operations in South Cotabato province triggered bad blood Wednesday between Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. and the provincial police commander, Col. Joel Limson.

 South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. MindaNews file photo by BONG SARMIENTO

Tamayo and Limson traded barbs over a local radio station here, triggered by the arrest of Walter Ozaeta, a STL operator whom the governor ordered arrested following their meeting at the provincial governor’s satellite office in Tupi, Tamayo’s hometown, on September 19.

“He [Limson] was not doing his homework, he should have conducted a background check [on Ozaeta]. This guy has a warrant of arrest for kidnapping,” Tamayo told Bombo Radyo here in Filipino.

Limson introduced Ozaeta, 35, a resident of San Jose, Batangas, to Tamayo so they can discuss the operator’s plan to continue STL operations in the province, according to the governor.

The suspect, before he was arrested in front of Tamayo by law enforcers, was using the alias Mike Macalindong.

Tamayo said he wanted to ensure that the reopening of STL operations in South Cotabato will be legal, to avoid getting the ire of President Duterte, who ordered the suspension of lotto and STL operations in July due to “massive corruption.”

Duterte lifted the suspension on STL operations last month.

Citing Limson’s text message, Tamayo said the STL operator “has lots of money and that he can be useful to us.”

Limson denied the claims of Tamayo that Ozaeta “can be their milking cow.”

The police official also said he did not know that Ozaeta had a warrant of arrest for kidnapping, noting the suspect was introduced to him as Mike Macalindong.

Tamayo said that he learned that Ozaeta had been issued a warrant of arrest after calling a local official in Batangas to verify the former’s identity.

Ozaeta had been turned over to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group. According to Limson, a cousin of Ozaeta charged him with kidnapping.

Limson, who was installed during the term of former Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes, indicated that Tamayo allegedly wanted “to control him.”

Tamayo defeated former Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes in the last elections.

“Our boss is the people and not the one who is in power… The police is a separate organ of the government, we are not under the control of the provincial government,” the police official told the same radio station.

Limson said that Tamayo allegedly rewarded the police and military teams each with P50,000 after the arrest of Ozaeta, the money, Limson noted, coming from the governor’s intelligence fund.

According to Limson, the many STL operators who are willing to resume the number game’s operation in the province “are happy with what’s happening between him and the governor.”

The police official, who is also a native of South Cotabato, said he is willing to patch things up with Tamayo.

Limson blamed Tamayo for starting their bad blood. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)