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The jueteng deadline has come and gone

Last Sunday, July 30, the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, gave a deadline to police regional directors in the country. Stop “jueteng” in 15 days, he ordered, or they would be relieved of their posts.

It is way past the deadline and there is yet no report if it has been met by any of the police officials involved. Very likely, it is business as usual, as that was a deadline that was impossible to meet, considering the history of jueteng in this country.

This numbers game draws small folk who bet as little as R5 on two numbers up to 40 in the hope that they will win the day’s prize. They cannot afford to enter a casino; instead an army of “cobradores” or collectors fan out into the barrios and barangays to gather hundreds of small bets made by small people driven by hope despite the odds – and sometimes by a dream the night before.

But the small bets from so many people add up to considerable amounts. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate Games and Amusement Committee, estimated the daily collection from “jueteng” operations in the country at P267 million a day – P96 billion a year.

The national government, through the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) sought to bring this big business under government supervision and control through the Small-Time Lottery (STL) program. But jueteng chiefs managed to continue their operations, some using STL as a front.

Lacson recalled that when he was named PNP chief in Laguna in 1992, he was offered P1.2 million a month. Other amounts went to local government and police officials, he said. And Laguna jueteng is small compared to Pangasinan, Pampanga, and Isabela.

Stopping illegal gambling is a most worthy goal but the way to accomplish it has not been found. The senator said he is now conducting public hearings on his measure, Senate Bill 1470 which seeks to strengthen the PCSO and make it more accountable to the public.

The STL program, he said, has failed to replace jueteng. Its operators have managed to maintain the patronage of the hundreds of thousands of small jueteng bettors in the country. The deadline imposed on the regional PNP directors may help, but it won’t be enough by itself. A total approach – social and cultural, as well as legal and penal – may be needed.