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MANILA, Philippines – Gambling lords have been using the Small Town Lottery (STL) of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) as a cover for illegal number games particularly jueteng, Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, confirmed on Sunday.
In a radio interview, Lacson also supported the call by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for a full-blown investigation of the matter after Friday’s hearing where the chief of the National Police Director Nicanor Bartolome, acknowledged that the legal STL had been used by jueteng operators to avoid arrest.
Asked to name powerful people who may be protecting this anomalous set-up, Bartolome had asked Sen. Miriam Santiago for an executive session.
On Sunday, Lacson said many of those given franchises by PCSO to operate STL were dummies of big gambling lords, whom he did not identify, including police officers who run jueteng as financiers.
“That (Pimentel probe) is good because what’s happening now is that the illegal numbers game uses as shield or cover the STL of PCSO. As far as I know, many of those given franchises were dummies of jueteng operator,” Lacson said.
He said that jueteng operators use the STL identification cards issued by PCSO in order to evade arrest---a modus operandi that Bartolome raised on Friday to explain why the PNP has found it hard to eradicate jueteng. Lacson said this is one of the loopholes in the operations against illegal number games.
“They hold the PCSO ID’s in collecting from bettors [for the STL], but the PCSO would be lucky to get even 20 percent of their collection; the 80-90 percent would go to the illegal activities like jueteng,” Lacson said, speaking in Filipino.
“That’s the handicap of the cops: they are shown the STL IDs from PCSO,” he added, noting that in some cases, policemen who insist on arresting the jueteng collectors land in trouble for harassing a “PCSO-STL collector.”
Lacson said the only way to stop jueteng and any other illegal number games is to treat jueteng activities like any other illegal activity such as murder, homicide, robbery and the like.
“Based on my experience as chief PNP jueteng will not flourish if it’s not protected by the police; because at the frontline, the PNP’s RD (regional director), PD (provincial director), COP (chief of police) . . . will treat jueteng like any other illegal activity such as murder, homicide, robbery, [they arrest them].”
However, “if police officers and other officials get monthly payola from the jueteng lords, they will really close their eyes to them and not make any arrests,” he said.
Bond from STL operators
Also, Lacson suggested that PCSO demand the payment of bonds from STL operators, in order to force the franchisee to operate STL only.
“I suggest that those applying for a franchise to operate an STL put up a P100-million cash bond which can be seized once there are franchise violations,” he said.
He thinks that strategy would be enough to deter jueteng, and at the same time, give authorities an idea of just how much betting goes on for jueteng daily.
P60-M take daily
Lacson estimated that around P60-million collections are generated daily from jueteng operations---and a huge chunk is distributed among police officers including local government units, possibly going up to certain national officials.
He thinks the P60 million can be used as a threshold by PCSO for its STL operations.
Lacson said in big provinces, police regional directors can rake in P2-3 million in bribes every month, while police provincial directors and police station commanders get around P500,000 to P1.5 million monthly.
Categorical statement from P-Noy
Lacson sees no need for a more categorical statement from President Benigno Aquino III, since every single police officer is mandated by law to go after jueteng operators, an illegal number games.
“Maski ako sasabihin ko di ko priority ang jueteng at anti-illegal gambling kasi mas maraming dapat prioritize na napakaraming problema ng PNP; mauubos ang oras kung habulin ang jueteng pero ang bottom line walang compromise,” he said.
He said he had heard Aquino give a categorical order to go after the illegal numbers syndicates, and wondered aloud “what more categorical pronouncement” do critics need.