By Jing Villamente, Reporter
REGION III, which covers provinces in Central Luzon, has earned the reputation of being the illegal gambling capital of the Philippines due to the proliferation of various forms of illegal numbers games there, including jueteng.
In his column Dead Shot, veteran journalist Erwin Tulfo said that while so much “muck has been hurled against PNP Region VI-A Regional director Chief Supt. James Melad and National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief, Director Gen. Alan Purisima” for allegedly receiving protection money from jueteng operators, nothing is being said about Region III director, Chief Supt. Edgardo T. Ladao.
“How come nobody’s questioning him? This, despite the fact that countless jueteng and prostitution joints have been raided from Bulacan, Angeles up to Zambales. I am not defending Chief Supt. Melad. It just makes me wonder how come authorities and critics managed to zero in on the illegal gambling activities in Region 4 but failed to see the shenanigans in Region 3?” Tulfo asked.
The broadcaster even averred that Ladao has been playing deaf to complaints by civic and religious organizations in the region about the widespread problem of illegal gambling and other illicit activities.
“Not once nor twice, but countless of times has this column and TV5 exposed the rampant jueteng, video karera and prostitution activities in Region 3, yet nothing has happened.
Nothing. As far as gambling is concerned, Central Luzon or Region 3 could be considered as the gambling capital of the Philippines,” Tulfo pointed out.
Recently, a certain Molly Acuña purportedly said in an e-mail that several police officers are in the payroll of jueteng operators, including Purisima and Melad. The controversy came as retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz revealed that jueteng has flourished under the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Acuña denied that he ever sent such an e-mail to Camp Crame reporters. Nevertheless, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and PNP chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome have ordered a team from the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) to conduct a probe.
Acuña left for Singapore earlier this week following reports about his charges. But on Friday, The Manila Times managed to get in touch with him. When asked if he had any idea about how jueteng is now doing in Central Luzon, he replied: “STL [small town lottery] na lang po now. Wala ng jueteng [Just STL. No more jueteng].”
He refused to answer further queries. Likewise, he did not say if he had already come back from his Singapore “vacation.”
While it is true that STL operations are ongoing in Central Luzon provinces, sources claim that another legitimate game introduced by the Philippine Charity Sweeptakes Office (PCSO), Loterya ng Bayan, is being used as fronts for jueteng draws.
Cobradores or bet collectors in the region even use the betting slip for the Loterya to avoid suspicion that they are actually collecting bets for jueteng. Because of this, collection of bets for Loterya has been far lower than jueteng’s.
A certain Rey Pineda, supposedly a brother of Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda, an alleged illegal gambling kingpin, is reportedly running the operation of jueteng which pays much higher dividends than the Loterya.
Besides the Times’ sources, Tulfo in his column alleged that even video karera, perya and other forms of gambling thrive in the region.
“VK [video karera] is particularly rampant in Angeles City, Mabalacat, San Simon, Guagua, Apalit, Masantol and Macabebe. Ladao’s alleged sidekick is one ‘PO3 Lennon.’ Is he the notorious patong or protector of jueteng and all sorts of illegal gambling?” Tulfo further asked.
Meanwhile, Senator Gringo Honasan said totally stopping illegal gambling operations in the country without providing alternative livelihood to the people who are dependent on such games may worsen the crime situation.
Honasan, chairman of the Senate Committee on public order and illegal drugs, said the government must first choose if it would work on eradicating illegal gambling operations in the country or come up with measures that would legalize the industry.
The lawmaker was reacting to news reports about the continuous existence of jueteng and other similar forms illegal numbers games.
Honasan said the government already has an existing policy against illegal gambling and if it wants to totally get rid of the illegal numbers game, the government must not only come up with a very effective campaign but must also offer an alternative employment for thousands of workers.
“If we will insist on getting rid of illegal gambling without offering an alternative source of livelihood, there will be a rise on the rate of crimes against person and property,” Honasan said.
WITH A REPORT FROM JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA