“I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I was a big favorite with the Mafia.” BRENDA LEE
By Alex P. Vidal
A 54-year-old former mayoral candidate could have been killed like Jimmy Punsalan if he did not stop his illegal gambling activity and fled to the United States.
“Bogart sent emissaries to convince me to stop my small-time (illegal gambling) operation,” confessed the defeated mayoral bet, who fled to Arizona, USA in 2001 after receiving threats from “Bogart” and his henchmen. “I told Bogart I was broke after the election and I only wanted to regain my money thus I operated ‘first two’ or ‘bookies’ (a numbers game).”
The defeated mayoral bet, an active gun club enthusiast, said he lost in the election by about 500 votes “because I ran out of funds in the homestretch.”
When he defied “Bogart’s” emissaries, the defeated mayoral bet, who operated in the towns of Leganes, Zarraga, San Miguel, and Alimodian, said it was “Bogart” himself who called him and personally asked him to stop.
When he ignored “Bogart”, he received threats. “When I sensed that the threats were real, I gave my sons guns and asked them to prepare for the worst,” he said in an exclusive interview.
It was when his family members, especially his wife, convinced him to “stay away from the heat” when the defeated mayoral bet decided to flee to the United States.
“My wife had been crying. She had sensed that suspicious-looking men have been roaming around our house in the dead of the night,” he narrated. “We had no peace of mind. We were always anticipating a violent attack. I was ready to face my attackers but I was worried a lot for my family.”
The defeated mayoral bet, who served as municipal councilor for three terms before running for mayor in the 2001 local elections, had sought the advice of a former police provincial director, who was his buddy in the gun club, but the police director reportedly convinced him to “get out of the kitchen” for his own good and the good of his family.
“I angered Bogart because I defied him several times. Eventually, I backtracked,” he admitted. “I realized I made the right decision when I stopped (my gambling operations) and silently left the country.”
The defeated mayoral bet surmised “Bogart” had also warned Punsalan to stop. Punsalan had denied he dabbled in illegal gambling aside from his legitimate businesses that included a hardware and restaurant.
The former mayoral candidate said he suspected that Punsalan, president of a group of retired members of the defunct Philippine Constabulary, wasn’t intimidated and also defied “Bogart”.
“Pare Jimmy could shoot,” the self-exiled former politician said. “He was a good shooter and alert when it comes to actual combat. He must have lowered his defense and his attackers pounced on this weakness.”
A lone gunman, backed by a look out and a Frontier get away vehicle, sneaked inside the Boliland Complex, a chain of restaurants in Brgy. Bolilao, Mandurriao district at around 9 p.m. last August 7 and shot Punsalan, 64, with a baby Armalite riffle hitting him in the eye, neck and hand. He died before reaching the Don Benito Memorial Hospital (now West Visayas University Hospital). Cops recovered 16 empty shells from the scene.
Task Force Punsalan, a investigation body created by the PNP to track down the killers, continued to face a blank wall. Investigators could not confirm if Punsalan was killed because of his alleged involvement in illegal gambling activity.