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Small-town lottery to be stopped, says Philippine president

Publication Date : 18-09-2012


Philippine President Benigno Aquino yesterday declared that the controversial small-town lottery (STL) would soon be stopped, but he said a new numbers game that would benefit the government and host communities would replace STL.

“STL as an experiment is over,” Aquino told reporters on the sidelines of his visit here to witness the mass oath-taking of new Liberal Party members in Quezon province.

The President said there was a need to stop STL because it failed to stamp out illegal numbers games, particularly “jueteng”.

Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, an antigambling advocate, said STL had long been “out of the picture.”

“STL was just a cover so now they are thinking about Loterya ng Bayan, which I am certain will be another fiasco, especially if it will use the standard jueteng hierarchy,” Cruz, head of Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng, said in a phone interview.

Jueteng has an operational structure made up of seven grades: The “cobradores”, who collect the bets; the “cabos”, who supervise the collectors; the “revisadores”, who review the bets placed; “caja”, where the money goes; “boladores”, those responsible for drawing the winning numbers; the “pagadores”, who pay the winning bets; and, the jueteng lords.

Cruz said if Loterya ng Bayan would employ the same “hierarchy,” it would be easy for gambling lords to use it as cover for their illegal operations.

“It’s correct that STL is out and now they are preparing the Loterya … but it will also be a failure just like the former so they should no longer continue with it,” the prelate said.

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) early last year announced that it was phasing out STL for failing to stamp out jueteng.

It initially planned the rollout of STL’s replacement sometime in August last year but was deferred for various reasons.

Aquino said the timetable for ending STL and the review of the STL franchise holders’ contracts set to expire next year were being conducted by the Palace, the PCSO, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and  the Department of Justice.

New rules

But the president said a still unnamed “new game” with “new rules” would replace STL to seriously combat jueteng.

“There will be new rules (under the new game),” he said.

The president said he returned the first draft of rules made by the PCSO because, according to him, it failed to address the issues and problems behind the STL.

Aquino said he envisioned a new numbers game in which the host community and the government would not be cheated of their rightful share of the revenue in the form of tax.

He said the new game would no longer be used as a front for illegal gambling operations.

Cobradores employed by jueteng operators who bought STL franchises from the government are known to brandish IDs identifying themselves as legitimate collectors to avoid arrest.
Jueteng take, payoffs

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Sunday said that jueteng operators, who used STL as a front, were turning over only 20 per cent of collections to the PCSO. Lacson said the daily collection of jueteng operators reached 50 million pesos (US$1.19 million).

He said that a regional police director, who protects operators of the illegal numbers racket, could receive between 2 million pesos and 3 million pesos a month and that a provincial police director could get between 500,000 pesos and 1.5 million pesos a month.

On Friday, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, head of the committee on constitutional amendments and revisions on codes and laws, disclosed during a Senate inquiry that money from jueteng amounted to 30 billion pesos annually.

Santiago said jueteng operated openly in at least six cities in Metro Manila and in nearby provinces.

The Senate inquiry was investigating resigned Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, who was allegedly among the top government officials receiving protection money of up to 8 million pesos a month from jueteng lords.

Puno denied having any knowledge of protection money from jueteng lords.

Last year, the PCSO was supposed to launch Loterya ng Bayan to replace STL to help generate about 12 billion pesos ($287 million) annually for charity.

Loterya ng Bayan also sought to compete with and to eradicate jueteng and other illegal numbers games nationwide. However, it failed to take off, leaving the STL to continue its operation.

Robredo plan

Aquino said the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, before his tragic death last month, had been preparing a comprehensive plan to combat jueteng.

The President said Robredo had long been conducting an investigation of reports that jueteng operators were using the STL as a front and that STL operators were cheating the government of its share of bet collections to evade taxes.

Aquino said Robredo had prepared a comprehensive plan to be submitted to him.

Under the Robredo plan, corresponding solutions to issues related to jueteng and other illegal number games were proposed.

“The problem was that he was not able to submit the plan to me. But the plan is with the papers that he left behind and is now in the hands of DILG Secretary Roxas. Once he (Roxas) assumes office, that will be included in the tasks that he will attend to,” the President said.

Online betting

Aquino said the government was doing something against illegal gambling. He cited the campaign to stop the illegal operation of Meridien Vista Gaming Inc., which hosts jai alai in the Cagayan Export Processing Zone and operates online betting stations outside the zone. Charlie “Atong” Ang serves as a consultant to Meridien.

The President said the government drive against Meridien’s online betting stations was halted when two courts issued an injunction  against Robredo and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. The jail alai operator, he said, also filed criminal cases against more than 300 police personnel.

In the meantime, gambling operators in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao reportedly use jai alai as a front for “masiao”, a three-digit illegal numbers racket.

New LP members

The President was in this city to witness the mass oath-taking of Liberal Party (LP) members in Quezon at the Enverga University gymnasium.

Roxas, LP president, administered the oath to six incumbent Quezon town mayors and more than 70 local officials as new LP members.

Roxas reminded the new LP members that their political party was not a party of convenience where members would just wear a new vest.

“Ours is a party of commitment and dedication to serve the Filipino people,” he said.

Quezon Vice Governor Vicente Alcala, LP-Quezon chairman, vowed to transform the province from being a known opposition bailiwick into an administration stronghold.

“With the support of the Aquino administration in Quezon through its projects and programmes, the province will now be known as an administration stronghold and no longer an opposition bailiwick,” said Alcala, elder brother of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

Aquino earlier inaugurated the new 7.5-kilometre by-pass road in Candelaria town.

The new road aims to decongest traffic along the Maharlika Highway, which could enhance the tourism industry and promote economic development in the province.  With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy

US$1 = 41.7 pesos


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