‘Jueteng’ and political will
The list of the top beneficiaries of jueteng that Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago exposed on the floor of the Senate and another list Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz divulged to the three Senate committees jointly investigating the illegal numbers racket received mixed reactions from the public.
The reactions may be group into three:
*That of apathy. There is nothing new in the exposes. Jueteng has been with us as far as one can remember. As administrations come and go, jueteng remains with the faces of jueteng payola recipients change.
*That of pessimism. Nothing will come out of it as it happened always before. The revelations are old refrains of the same racket.
*That of concern. Jueteng has developed into a monster that threatens national security and democracy itself.
Jueteng has been in existence since Spaniards times. Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the national hero, had played it and even won it, according to some historical accounts.
But those were the days when jueteng operators and financiers were honest. The draws were open to the public and no cases of rigging and cheating of any forms were ever reported. In short, jueteng then was more of a harmless recreation and amusement for the people and not gambling in the strict sense of the word.
Jueteng draws were allowed, not by law, but by sufferance of Spanish authorities, it being a part of Filipino tradition for merriments. Otherwise, Dr. Jose P. Rizal would not have played it. And if it had eroded the moral fibers of the society. Rizal would have denounced it through his writings. The old jueteng may be likened to “beto-beto” you played in ferias during barrio or town fiestas where you put your loose money or “barya” as bets.
In contrast, jueteng today has metamorphosed into a multi-billion peso illegal gambling operations run by syndicates in connivance with corrupt heads of local government units (LGUs) (provincial governors, city and town mayors) and even congressmen, and police authorities. As Philippine Daily Inquirer rightly put in its editorial: “Indeed”, jueteng must be stopped. Not just because like all forms of gambling, it erodes people’s cultural and moral foundations and corrupts social institutions, including the Church, but more importantly because, contrary to what some people say that it is the least destructive of all forms of gambling, it is the worst.
Without the consent of heads of LGU’s and the police no jueteng operations will never be possible. Because jueteng now permeates and pervades the whole country, it has become a national security issue.
In some provinces, cities and towns, jueteng syndicates had reportedly funded election campaigns of their candidates of their choice. Many of them have won the polls, reports said.
If they call it narco-politics in some Latin American countries, we call it here jueteng-politics.
This is how it is now and this is how it will be. Unless stumped out or chrushed on time, jueteng will further grow into a monster and even elect a President of the Republic!
This is the scenario our good senators wanted to paint jueteng today during their hearing where Bishop Cruz identified top beneficiaries of jueteng money. In the list are: Interior Under-secretary Rico E. Puno, retired Philippine National Police director general Jesus Verzosa, retired senior Supt. Rey Cachuela, collectively known as the “Three Kings” on the list.
On the other hand, Senator Santiago’s list included Atong Ang, a former gambling buddy of President Joseph Estrada, Aging Lisan, Boy Pineda, and Danny Soriano.
Asked if there is still hope to eradicate jueteng, Bishop Cruz said “yes”, adding that it only takes political will to do it.
This column believes so also. With vast powers of the presidency given to him by the Constitution and under the “walk straight path” battlecry of the administration, jueteng would be a thing of the past. If the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos could do it, there is no reason a popular President like
PNoy can’t do it.
Leadership by example is probably President Benigno Aquino III wanted to convey to all Pilipinos when he, together with his delegation to New York, in the course of his seven—day official visit to the United States, dined at ordinary restaurants including eating at Sabrett hotdog corner stand in NY city and also eating burgers at In and Out.
In contrast, in her US trip last year, former president Gloria Arroyo and her entourage dined at the ritzy New York restaurant Le Cirque, consuming $20,000 (P1 million) worth of food and wine.
PNoy’s message is loud and clear. Our economy is in bad shape as one-third of our populace live in extreme poverty. This the time for belt-tightening and to squander people’s little money would be unconscionable.
This may sound funny but like many of us, P-Noy could be forgetful sometimes. Would you believe the President left in Manila his cellphone when he flew to San Francisco Monday night for official visit to the United States? Well, that’s the price of being a bachelor. The Unknown Touch/Cornelio R. de Guzman