‘Jueteng’: It’s déjà vu all over againBy Jocelyn R. Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The ball is in the court of lawmakers, and it’s up to them to act on the information about “jueteng” he furnished them, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said Monday.
Cruz, who heads the Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng, said his group had submitted documents, including lists of gambling lords and government officials on the payroll of jueteng operators, to the investigating committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
He said he had nothing more to say about the matter.
“In all [our] appearances [at the hearings], we submitted to them the list of people we knew as jueteng lords and beneficiaries,” Cruz told reporters.
Picture hasn’t changed
“Now, if they would like to know what is the real score, then it’s enough for them to go over these resources because so far, the picture has not changed … It is still the same as far as jueteng is concerned,” said the former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
In a television interview, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Monday floated the possibility of inviting anew the prelate to a Senate committee hearing that would also tackle Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno’s purported involvement in the numbers racket.
But Cruz was doubtful that another appearance at the Senate would be worthwhile.
“I have been in the Senate more than once. I have been in the House more than once, so I don’t know if that’s enough. If we can contribute anything new, that’s what I don’t know yet,” he said.
While not totally discounting the possibility of attending the hearing, Cruz said he hoped he would no longer be invited because he and his group had already provided the lawmakers enough information to actually do something about the problem.
“So strictly speaking, I don’t need to be there,” he said.
Two years ago, Cruz gave the Senate and the House a list showing that Puno and then recently retired Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa were receiving between P5 million and P8 million in grease money from the numbers racket.
Santiago said at the time that the annual collections of jueteng operators had reached P30 billion. She claimed that the prime beneficiaries and ultimate protectors of jueteng were the interior secretary and the national police chief.
Cruz also gave a list of other officials in the “lower echelons” of government receiving jueteng payola, as well as of provinces where the numbers racket was pervasive.
“We are not saying that what is on the list are all correct. We are just saying that this is what we know. We gave it to you so please check,” he said.
He noted that in previous inquiries, the lawmakers had turned the tables on members of the crusade and were instead being asked to prove the veracity of the list.
The prelate said he was turned off with the previous proposal in Congress to legalize jueteng, which, he claimed, promoted a culture of graft and corruption.
“When we appeared in the Senate and the House, we were denouncing jueteng, but what they were intending to do was to see the possibility of legalizing [it]. That’s not our objective. What we want is to stop it,” Cruz said.