Santiago to summon Puno on ‘jueteng’By Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Two years since she exposed the links between operators of “jueteng” and government officials, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago wonders whatever happened to the campaign against the illegal numbers racket, if there is any, of the Aquino administration.
Santiago said she would summon Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno to a hearing of her Senate committee on revision of codes and laws this week and ask him pointblank with whom was he sharing his jueteng take.
“Absolutely, I would ask him, ‘Sinong kahati mo d’yan sa jueteng?’ That would be my first question to him. Why would you beat around the bush? It’s very clear, jueteng is already poised to bite [him] in the nose,” Santiago blurted out in a radio interview Sunday.
Former Archbishop Oscar Cruz, an antijueteng crusader, said in September 2010, three months after Mr. Aquino assumed office, that Puno and then recently retired PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa each received between P5 million and P8 million a month in jueteng payola.
Santiago said at the time that the annual collections of jueteng operators had reached P30 billion, due to a “conspiracy between the interior secretary and the police chief. They are the prime beneficiaries and ultimate protectors of jueteng.”
The senator reiterated her suspicion that a “backer” responsible for Puno’s appointment to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) could be the reason jueteng continued to thrive despite officially announced government efforts to eradicate it.
Calling jueteng “the first problem of the DILG,” Santiago said the illegal numbers game remained hard to wipe out because of the continued collusion between its operators and the government officials tasked with eliminating it.
Asked whether Puno, as the DILG official given supervision over the Philippine National Police, was guilty of “inaction” against jueteng, Santiago replied, “Absolutely!”
“Nothing is happening to the antijueteng drive when that’s supposed to be the main thrust of police work. In addition to peace and order, that should be the most important,” she noted.
Huge monthly bribes
Santiago said a portion of jueteng collections served as the source of “huge monthly bribes” that eventually found their way to the authorities.
“Just imagine, if you are the head of the PNP, or if you are the undersecretary supervising the PNP and you are in collusion with the head of the PNP who is under you—why, you could be a supermillionaire! You must be a dollar millionaire every year, every month,” she said.
The senator added that if a government official on the take from jueteng operators shared his loot with colleagues, “they would just follow your orders. You won’t be assailed and you would become untouchable. That’s what happened to Puno.”
Atong Ang et al.
Santiago’s complaint about inaction against jueteng apparently stems from a privilege speech she gave in September 2010 in which she named Atong Ang, an associate of ousted President Joseph Estrada, as the top jueteng operator in four of five regions where the numbers game was played around the country.
She said other prominent operators at that time included Danny Soriano, Bong Pineda, Aging Lisan and Tony Santos.
The senator wondered then why Ang did not make the list of Cruz who, as head of the People’s Crusade Against Jueteng, drew up his own list of jueteng operators and their beneficiaries.
Santiago gave a PowerPoint presentation then in which photos of Puno, Verzosa and former Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno were flashed onscreen.
P300M for DILG, PNP chiefs
Santiago said she had information then that the interior secretary and the PNP chief shared P300 million between themselves, a drop in the bucket compared with the yearly receipts.
She said it was important that the next DILG head would not succumb to the temptations offered by jueteng operators.
“The DILG is very important. You would notice that the crooks from prior administrations came from the DILG because they control jueteng. Imagine, this game earns hundreds of millions all over the country through the PNP. That’s why the PNP benefits from jueteng. That’s why they cannot eradicate it. The secretary of DILG shares in the loot as a general rule,” she said.
Santiago said the one mystery that the Aquino administration needed to explain was why supervision of the PNP suddenly shifted to an undersecretary, specifically Puno.
“Puno is like a miracle figure in the bureaucracy. He can divide the functions of the secretary. It’s not like the secretary volunteered to share his functions with his undersecretaries. It wasn’t that way at all,” the senator pointed out.
Santiago said Puno’s alleged backer could be credited for his seemingly secure position in the DILG.
“Mr. Puno’s backer is only interested in controlling the PNP because it is the agency that protects and defends big-time criminals behind corrupt activities in the government,” she said.