CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The Aquino administration continues to operate a numbers game that has been tagged in many cases as a front for the illegal numbers racket “jueteng,” earning more than P4 billion from it last year.
Jose Ferdinand Rojas, general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), said Small Town Lottery (STL) generated P4.6 billion in revenues for government last year as STL continues to operate while its supposed replacement, PCSO Loterya ng Bayan (PLB), hasn’t started.
“STL is still ongoing,” said Rojas.
STL has been tagged as a front for jueteng, providing a perfect cover for illegal lottery operators to use government-issued IDs for their collectors.
A report submitted to legislators also revealed jueteng has been earning more than STL, as STL operators who are also involved in jueteng shortchange government.
Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, an antigambling crusader, said jueteng never stopped even under President Aquino.
Pangasinan jai alai
What’s worse, said Cruz, jueteng is now played openly, quoting reports he received that PCSO would cease operating STL and not operate PLB at all.
“[Jueteng] never stopped. Pangasinan is one of the topnotchers,” said Cruz in a phone interview.
A police official in the Ilocos region said police reports showed that jueteng continues to operate in La Union and is “openly played in Pangasinan in the guise of jai alai.”
“But we do not stop our campaign against jueteng,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.
The Ilocos police office, he said, is planning a major operation to stamp out jueteng in Pangasinan, La Union and the two Ilocos provinces, all in the region.
Rojas said contrary to Cruz’s claim, STL is still running and government will push PLB.
“PCSO respects the opinion of Archbishop Cruz and welcomes ideas and inputs for PLB,” he said.
The launching of PLB, touted to be the antidote for jueteng, has been delayed several times since November 2010.
“We’d like to be very ready when we start PLB,” Rojas said in a phone interview.
In an earlier interview, PCSO Chair Margarita Juico said illegal gambling operators would be kept out of PLB.
Juico said she could not heed the demand of former Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio to stop STL and PLB because these would deprive poor bettors of the chance to win and lead to losses in revenue.
STL proceeds, she said, are used to pay off P4 billion in debts incurred by the past PCSO board.
“We cannot just stop [STL]. Our cash flow would be disrupted,” she said.
Jueteng in seven regions gross P2.575 billion monthly, according to a police report submitted to the Senate. STL, on the other hand, made P9.5 billion in gross receipts in four years—February 2006 to August 2010, PCSO officials told the Senate.
Cruz assailed the Aquino administration for its failure to stop jueteng.
“The ‘matuwid na daan’ (straight path) does not apply to the illegal numbers game, although it is not a secret that jueteng payola corrupts not only police but also public officials,” he said. With a report from Inquirer Northern Luzon