Bentain taped Erap as security men slept

- Tony Calvento -

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) video technician Edgar Bentain found the opportunity to videotape former President Joseph Estrada gambling, despite his security men monitoring the activities inside the CCTV room, when the security escorts fell asleep after a heavy midnight snack, according to a source.

Estrada, who was vice president in 1998 but was positioning to run for president, was caught on videotape playing baccarat with Charlie “Atong” Ang in the VIP pit of the Silahis Hotel (the now shuttered Grand Boulevard Hotel) casino.

Former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chairman Manuel Morato, who exposed the video shortly before the 1998 presidential elections after Bentain handed it over to him, denied having paid for the tape.

“Bentain first called me on the telephone and told me that he wanted to give me something. He then went to my residence and gave me the tape. I never gave him money. If he received money it definitely did not come from me,” Morato said.

Asked what reason Bentain gave for having sneaked-out the tape from the Pagcor CCTV room, Morato replied that the video technician did not want Estrada to become president because of his bad habits.

The source narrated that Bentain took the official tape from the recording machine and inserted a blank one, then recorded some ten minutes of Estrada gambling with Ang. He then placed back the original Pagcor tape and went out of the room to hand over the tape to an accomplice who then took the tape out of the casino.

Bentain, knowing that his acts would soon be discovered, went absent without official notice from his work and subsequently got in touch with Morato, according to the same source.

“Bentain felt that his life was in grave danger after I had exposed the tape publicly. He came to see me again and expressed his desire to leave for the United States to avoid retaliation for his actions. I sensed that he was desperate and so I gave him a certification from the PCSO that he had won the lotto,” the former PCSO chief said.

Morato sees nothing wrong or illegal in giving Bentain a certificate for winning the lotto. The certification given to Bentain states that he had won P10 million in a lotto draw.

“Being the chairman of PCSO I could give anyone a certification if I feel that it was needed. In this case it was a request from a man who feared that he could be killed. To make it easier for him to get a visa I gave in to his request. I did it for humanitarian reasons. What is wrong with that?” Morato said.

He also stressed that no money was taken from the coffers of the PCSO and given to Bentain in exchange for the tape.

The source said that Bentain, after lying low for a while, thought that the “heat was over” and returned to the Grand Boulevard Hotel to play in the same casino where he had worked.

After hours of gambling, Bentain went down to the parking lot to rest for a while. It was about this time that he was snatched by unidentified men and brought to an undisclosed place.

He was never seen or heard from again.

Some years back the brother of Bentain approached this writer to help locate his missing brother. Despite several attempts, nothing had come out of this writer’s personal investigative work.

The most relevant information this writer had received was to try and interview a PNP officer assigned in Laguna nicknamed “Kiko.”

“Kiko” was allegedly in-charge of getting Bentain on orders given to him by his superiors.

In his privilege speech the other day, Sen. Lacson also mentioned that a PNP officer from Laguna, who is still in active service, reported to a resident of Polk St. in Greenhills “that Bentain had been taken care off.”

The senator, however, failed to mention the name of the PNP officer, to the dismay of the Bentain brothers.

At that time it was Chief Superintendent Reynaldo Acop who was Regional Director of Region IV and his area of responsibility included the province of Laguna.


Meanwhile, the youngest brother of Bentain yesterday accused Lacson of being “too insensitive,” believing that the lawmaker actually intended to advance his veiled agenda rather than help the family when he delivered a “restrained exposé” regarding his lost sibling.

Ediver Bentain scored Lacson for merely “exploiting our grief” to ease himself out of the issue or get back at his enemies.

He said Lacson’s revelation only baffled them even more, as it left more questions unanswered, foremost of which is the true whereabouts of his brother’s remains, which they thought they could learn from the senator’s privilege speech Tuesday afternoon.

“He shot down our hope of finally finding our brother. We thought he could really help us by divulging everything he knows about the case in his speech, but instead he left us hanging. We were anticipating his supposed revelation, but in the end there was actually nothing,” Ediver told The STAR.

He said they had long accepted that Edgar is already dead, but that they suspected that his remains were dumped somewhere in Cavite or Pampanga. 

He said Lacson’s claim that Edgar was killed in Laguna is new information for them, but even that revelation is doubtful, considering the “real motive” of Lacson in coming out with his privilege speeches. 

Ediver believed that Lacson’s speeches were purely politically motivated. – Katherine Adraneda


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