The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) has no plans of stopping the operations of small-town lottery (STL) in the country amid accusations that it is being used as front for the illegal but relatively more popular numbers game jueteng.
Asked by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casino during a hearing at the House of Representatives if the PCSO can at least suspend STL operations while the agency is evaluating the system, PCSO chairman Jose Ferdinand Rojas said no because they could not just cancel the contract of STL agent corporations.
“Meron tayong kontrata so we have to respect the legality ng agreement (We can’t just abandon contracts),” he told members of House committee on good government and public accountability Tuesday.
Casino said it is better to err on the side of caution, noting that “STL is being used for jueteng.”
“Mabuti if we start with a clean slate. Mahirap kasi yung malaki na ang duda sa sistema from this anecdotal evidence talagang me problema tayo,” the party-list representative said.
(It’s good that we start with a clean slate because based on anecdotal evidence the STL system really has a problem. There are doubts about it.)
Rojas replied that it is more favorable for the PCSO to continue the operations to allow them to determine which of their agent corporations are violating the law.
“It will be much easier for us by the end of the year to cancel it outright lalo na pag nakita namin na ginagamit nila yung IDs nila (especially if we are able to prove that they are using their IDs) as a cover for jueteng,” he said.
“Kung makakita tayo ng maraming (if we see a number of) violations, breach of contract, [it will be] easier for us to catch them any time before the end of the year,” Rojas added.
The PCSO is now in the process of evaluating the agents of STL to determine if their contracts will be retained, revoked or canceled by the end of the year.
“In fact we have not approved any new applications yet because we are really planning to do an overhauling and a refinement of our internal guidelines,” said Rojas.
He said they want to be careful and be sure that the new applicants are really legitimate businessmen who could really operate in a transparent manner and help uplift the employment of the different provinces and districts.
“Jueteng lords” as financiers
Jueteng whistleblower Sandra Cam said during the hearing that 85 percent of the STL agents are backed by jueteng operators.
“Ang nagpi-finance dyan ay jueteng lords, tatlo hanggang apat na corporations lang yata ang legitimate talaga (Only three or four corporations are legitimate, the rest are financed by jueteng lords),” she told the committee.
The PCSO did not deny Cam’s statement.
Cam also said only the proceeds of the first of the four STL draws go to the PCSO.
“Ang unang bola yun lang ang ibinibigay sa PCSO, dun kumukuha ang PCSO ng share. Yung tatlong bola, jueteng na yun kaya kaunting pera lang ang napupunta sa gobyerno,” she said.
(Only the money from the first draw goes to PCSO. Money from the other draws go to jueteng lords.)
Even the Philippine National Police (PNP) admitted during the hearing that they are having a hard time arresting jueteng operators because these operators have STL IDs.
“Ang naging problema noon ay yung hinuhuli namin na based on reports ay jueteng operators meron nang legitimate na ID ng STL and hindi namin alam kung bola ng jueteng yang nangyayari,” Senior Superintendent Napoleon Taas of the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management.
(The problem is we can’t distinguish a STL operator from a jueteng operator. A lot of jueteng operators we arrested had STL IDs.)
On the accusations that some of the directors of the PCSO are receiving payola from the jueteng operators, Rojas said they have requested the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the matter.
“Hopefully they (NBI) will be able to come up with results by next month and this shall be included in our evaluation of the existing agent corporations and in evaluating our new applicants for the incoming STL guidelines by the end of the year,” Rojas said.
Also during the hearing, Cam said they received information that jueteng operations will continue as the Christmas season nears.
“We also had information from the PNP na since magki-Christmas ay go na naman ito (We received information from the PNP that jueteng operations will continue during the Christmas season),” she said.
Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a known anti-jueteng advocate, was not present during the hearing as he has to attend six meetings, but Cam said Cruz sent her to tell the police to be vigilant against jueteng.
“Ang sabi ni Archbishop Cruz na sabihan ang mga pulis, ang mga government officials na kayo lang ang nagbubulag-bulagan dito. Pumunta kayo sa mga probinsya, tanungin ninyo ang mga kutsero at barbero, alam nila kung sino nago-operate ng jueteng,” she said.
(Cruz asked me to inform the police and government officials that they are the only ones who are blind to how rampant jueteng operations are. He said even ordinary people in the provinces who the jueteng operators are.)
Because of Cruz’s absence, lawmakers moved that he be invited in the next hearing set on December 13.
Also to be invited are Interior secretary Rico Puno and former PNP chief Jesus Verzosa, both named by Cruz as the government officials who were allegedly receiving money from jueteng operators. – KBK, GMANews.TV
Jueteng to intensify before holidays: whistleblower
MANILA, Philippines – Expect jueteng rackets to ratchet up before Christmas this year as more people are enticed to try their luck in the illegal numbers game.
Anti-jueteng whistleblower and crusader Sandra Cam told members of the House of Representatives Committee on Good Government that jueteng operations usually intensify in the runup to the yuletide holidays.
“We have inside information from Camp Crame na dahil magki-Christmas i-go-go na naman lahat ito,” Cam said.
The whistleblower said jueteng is again on the upswing due to the seeming laxity of the Philippine National Police to implement its 1-strike policy.
She said jueteng now proliferates in Ilocos region with the blessing of the Region 1 police director. She said she wrote a letter to the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group about the problem “since they are the only ones listening.”
“It seems police and government officals na lang walang alam na jueteng sa Quezon at Region 1. Naglalaro na naman sila starting Monday yesterday. I thought all the while the PNP chief said 1-strike policy but there were only 2 chiefs (held accountable) in the 1-strike policy so ningas kugon na naman ito,” she told congressmen.
The PNP, through the the Chief of the Directorate for Operations Rolando Felix, refuted Cam’s allegation. They said 5 chiefs of police were relieved of their posts in the past 2 months because of the PNP’s 1-strike policy against jueteng.
It noted that cases of jueteng and other forms of illegal gambling decreased by 67% since September 15 due to police operations against the illegal numbers game. Jueteng related cases filed in court also decreased 71% during that period.
The committee meantime is set to subpoena Undersecretary Rico Puno of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and former PNP Chief Jesus Verzosa for their alleged involvement in jueteng. They are expected to attend the committee’s December 13 hearing along with Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz.
At the same hearing, Cam also told lawmakers how the small town lottery is being used to front for jueteng.
Cam said that of the 4 STL daily draws, only one is reported back to the PCSO while the rest are used in jueteng. The payola from the jueteng draws are then channeled to local officials and police officials who are allegedly protecting the operations.
The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, through General Manager Joey Rojas, said no new applications for STL franchises will be granted even as the agency probes the alleged use of STL to front for jueteng.
Rojas said they asked the NBI to probe Cam’s earlier allegations that some former PCSO directors got Mini-Coopers and other payola from jueteng operators.