POSTSCRIPT / December 23, 1997 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Many Pinoys have been reduced to either ‘magdasal’ or ‘magsugal’

THE Philippine megalotto (6/45) jackpot on Christmas eve is a whopping P60 million. Not bad for a P10 bet for six numbers to be drawn from the numbers 1 to 45. The day before that megalotto, the smaller 6/42 Luzon lotto will also be drawn with a jackpot of some P52 million.

The lotto, managed by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, offers a guaranteed minimum jackpot of only P3 million for the uniform bet of P10, but the cumulative jackpot had piled up to more than P50 million after several draws failed to produce any winner.

The juiciest jackpot so far in the two-year-old lotto was P140 million, won last year by a jeepney driver in Pasay City. The part-time driver had been abandoned by his wife, a tour guide, for a prosperous-looking tourist.

After collecting his bonanza, the man paid his three-month back rent for his small apartment, then disappeared with his children. Did a repentant wife seek a reconciliation? Nobody knows.

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UNLIKE in the States, lotto winners in the Philippines are never identified. Or interviewed by media. The reason given is security. Brand-new multimillionaires have to be protected from kidnappers, robbers, swindlers, extortionists and the like.

They also have to be protected from their own friends and relatives who suddenly start crawling out from everywhere like starved leeches.

There was this simple winner in the Visayas who was so happy and grateful for his good fortune that he announced he would personally pay for the laying of power lines to their obscure barrio so he and his neighbors would start enjoying the benefits of electricity.

Having advertised himself, although in good faith, the would-be philanthropist suddenly found himself besieged by people asking for “balato” and all sorts of tearful requests for financial assistance. The harassed do-gooder packed up and was never heard from again.

Then there was this winner from Batangas whom local policemen insisted on guarding while he collected his prize money in Manila. You can guess what his security detail did.

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LOTTO is the newest gambling diversion foisted by the government on the population searching for deliverance from poverty.

Another major gambling enterprise sponsored by the government is Pagcor, which is into casino gambling. It has grown so big that it now rivals Internal Revenue and Customs as government revenue earner.

Casinos are supposed to entice foreign players, but a check any day at the casinos will show that they are patronized mostly by locals.

The poor man’s game is, of course, still the well-entrenched jueteng – a popular numbers game where a bettor guesses the pair of numbers that would be drawn from the numbers 1 to 36.

Jueteng is comparatively small-time, but it has volume. Despite avowals of official scorn for this illegal game, jueteng thrives with impunity mainly because gambling lords have coopted or corrupted national and local officials, military and police officers, and even church prelates.

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IT is curious that President Ramos, under whose aegis as constabulary chief jueteng had flourished, has not said a word against jueteng in all his decades in government. As President, he has fighting words against all sorts of venalities, but strangely none for jueteng.

Mr. Ramos and his anointed presidential candidate Speaker Jose de Venecia might as well include state gambling in their platform and recruit a gambling lord for their Cabinet.

Truly, it seems that many impoverished Filipinos, who comprise more than half f the population, have been reduced to pinning their hopes to either sugal or dasal (gambling or praying).

* * *

WHAT have agriculture, health and quarantine officials done to shield us from the deadly avian flu that has been claiming victims, including a Filipino maid, in nearby Hong Kong? Known to hit only poultry, the flu variant has spread to humans.

Is it possible we already have the deadly virus in the Philippines, considering that flocks of chicken are sometimes wiped out in what the local folk call “peste”?

Inquirer columnist Neal Cruz notes, “Poultry raisers overload their chicken with antibiotics and steroids to protect them from diseases and make them grow fat and faster and the virus might have mutated to protect itself from the antibiotics. So now we have a flu virus that is resistant to antibiotics and infecting and killing humans, like the Ebola virus which used to infect only monkeys.”

There is no known cure for or vaccine against this “bird flu.” What is the cure for government neglect?

* * *

FROM Manila, our best wishes to readers of The Filipino Reporter! Let me assure you that despite the many problems in the home country, we will survive somehow. One thing we can say of the Filipino is that he is a survivor.

Maybe God in His wisdom, and kindness, has never left the devout Filipino and has in fact lifted him whenever he was down.

Maligayang Pasko! Mabuhay ang Pinoy!

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