Despite deaths, illegal gambling lives onBy Maricar Cinco |
Vic Siman is dead. Long live gambling. The killing of allegedly one of the country’s biggest gambling lords has not put a stop to the illegal numbers racket in Laguna.
Bettors interviewed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer saw no changes in the operations of “jueteng” and Small Town Lottery (STL) bookies.
A 46-year-old woman from a relocation site in San Pedro town in Laguna said she had just placed bets last week. “I placed P10 last week and won something like P1,200. I never lost in that game,” she said.
She said even jueteng or bookies continued to operate despite the killing of Siman and 12 others, including three policemen and three soldiers, in a controversial police operation in Atimonan, Quezon, on January 6.
“You will know where you are placing the bets, either on jueteng or bookies or lotto (STL), because they will put the numbers on a blackboard,” she said, although she denied placing bets for the illegal numbers game.
Another bettor asked: “What’s Laguna’s operations got to do with Atimonan?”
Bookies rely heavily on the government-run STL, which is being used as a front for jueteng and other underworld lottery games.
A source privy to gambling operations said Siman was just one of many operators of so-called bookies, or outlets where bets for illegal lotteries are taken.
“Bookies didn’t stop but, in fact, became more rampant,” said the source. Several other gambling operators are now fighting with each other to fill the void left by Siman’s death, he said.
Another source, who said he had worked for Siman, said illegal gambling nets up to P150,000 a day in Los Baños town alone. The take is bigger in other places like Calamba City, Sta. Rosa City, Biñan and San Pedro towns, said the source.
A woman, who had placed bets worth P3 to P5 just days ago, said “the operations have continued.”
The deaths in Atimonan have been described as “collateral damage” in what Justice Secretary Leila de Lima viewed as a case of summary killings.
The operation to get Siman was drawn up and led by Supt. Hansel Marantan, a police intelligence officer.
Sources said they believed the operation to get Siman was driven by rivalry in the gambling underworld since a sister of Marantan is allegedly operating an illegal gambling network that is feuding with Siman’s. Marantan has repeatedly denied having a sister involved in illegal gambling.
A police source said the impact of Siman’s death on the gambling network was like a family losing its head.
Members of the syndicate have “slowly regrouped,” the source said. “For a time, they were dispersed.”
No one has taken over the leadership of the syndicate, another source said. However, he said, the bet collectors’ loyalties are fleeting.
“When things like this happen,” he said, “they will only move to other (groups).”
Ramon Preza, an STL operator in Laguna, on Tuesday asked the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to step up the campaign to eradicate bookies.
Preza said the government was losing more than half of what it is supposed to earn from the STL due to bookies.
Senior Superintendent Pascual Muñoz, Laguna police director, said police were reviewing strategies against illegal gambling.
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