‘Jueteng’ rampant in Pampanga – Panlilio

Jueteng, the notorious illegal numbers game, is alive and well in Pampanga and is estimated to be raking in more than P16 billion a year in that province alone, the governor told The Manila Times.

If one asked the Philippine National Police, they would say that there is no more jueteng in the province, said Pampanga Gov. Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio, the priest who went on leave from the Catholic Church to run for elective office in 2007. He spoke to The Times in an exclusive roundtable interview on Tuesday.

The small-town lottery, or STL, that was introduced to lure away people from patronizing jueteng, is actually making it more difficult to go after those behind illegal gambling, he said.

For one, there are a lot of similarities between the small-town lottery and jueteng, and in some cases, the same set of people work both, Panlilio said.

The kubrador or collector in jueteng now goes by another name, the governor said in Filipino. That person is now called “a sales agent.”

Plus, Panlilio is skeptical that jueteng lords and other beneficiaries will allow the illegal numbers game to totally disappear, as was hoped with the introduction of a legal substitute.

If jueteng becomes legal, then the government will earn all the money and the gambling lords will lose out, he explained. Panlilio added that the sums involved are eye-popping.

The governor said that based on his information, the revenues from each jueteng draw ranges from P20,000 to P30,000 per barangay or village. There are three draws daily, including Sundays, and 500 villages in Pampanga, he said.

In a year, the figure comes out to between P10.95 billion and P16.43 billion in that province alone.

Because there is so much money involved, Panlilio said, “jueteng can corrupt the highest officer of the land.”

And if jueteng can buy the top officials, imagine what it can do to lower-ranking government employees, he added.

“Hindi po biro-biro ang jueteng [Jueteng is not a small deal],” the governor added.

He said he does not believe that jueteng—or gambling in general—helps people, as is argued by some quarters. “It encourages a culture of laziness.” Instead of working hard to earn a living, people learn instead to leave their future to chance, he added.

On Wednesday, Senior Superintendent Ernald Singian, the police chief in Pampanga, said, “Legally speaking, there’s no jueteng in Pampanga. What we have here is small-town lottery, which is legal [and played throughout the province].”

He played down Panlilio’s claim that jueteng is rampant in the province.

Bibingka approach

Panlilio said he is determined to eradicate jueteng, despite the gargantuan task. “We understand it’s a long, drawn-out battle.”

He likened his plan against jueteng to the “bibingka,” the popular local cake that is baked with fire from the top and bottom of the oven.

At the bottom, Panlilio said the province has launched a “comprehensive” program in partnership with various organizations. The bottom approach teaches people values, so they realize the social costs of illegal gambling, and this is complemented with a livelihood program.

At the top, the governor cited the fact that he has filed a plunder case against Bong Pineda, the husband of Panlilio’s political rival and former mayor of Lubao, Pampanga, Lilia.

Bong Pineda’s name figured prominently during the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada. He was convicted of plunder, largely on the evidence that he accepted payola from jueteng lords.

But the case filed by Panlilio against Bong Pineda has not progressed at the Office of the Ombudsman. For now, the governor is resorting a signature campaign, calling on the Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to act on the case.

Panlilio said they have gathered about 5,000 signatures so far, and they are gathering more.
–Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd with Maricel Cruz (ManilaTimes)

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