POSTSCRIPT / September 23, 2010 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Miriam bomba to force Noy’s hand on jueteng?

BOMBA: That was some bombshell dropped on the Senate floor yesterday by Sen. Miriam Santiago, who identified top officials allegedly receiving jueteng payola and gave a breakdown of the millions collected by vice lords in the provinces.

From an estimated P30-billion annual gross income from jueteng, Santiago said one percent, or P300 million, goes to the Philippine National Police chief and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group head, and the DILG secretary or undersecretary.

As the illegal gambling problem boils down to a test of law enforcement and political will, the big question now is what President Noynoy Aquino will decide to do upon his return from his United States trip.

* * *

DAILY TAKE: In her privilege speech, Santiago identified Charlie “Atong” Ang, Bong Pineda, Aging Lisan,Tony Santos and Danny Soriano among the big operators. She offered no proof.

The senator said these were the daily collection of the persons named:

* Pineda — P33 million (P9 million in Pampanga, P8 million in Bulacan, P7.5 million in Nueva Ecija, P4 million in Camarines Sur, P3 million in Bataan and P1.5 million in Angeles City).

* Ang — P14 million (P4.2 million in Albay, P3.5 million in Isabela, P1.7 million in Camarines Norte, P1.6 million in Cavite, and P1.5 million each in Nueva Vizcaya and Mindoro Occidental).

* Lisan — P3.1 million (P2 million in Navotas and Malabon, and P1.1 million in Olongapo City).

* Santos — P2 million (P1 million in Caloocan and another P1 million in Valenzuela).

* Soriano — P1.7 million (P1.4 million in Cagayan and P300,000 in Quirino).

* * *

PUBLICITY-DRIVEN?: What are many of the senators trying to do aside from projecting their best angle for the press photographers and their choice comments for the rest of media?

When the Senate hearing has been wrung dry of its publicity juice, can we expect the passage of remedial legislation to mitigate the harmful social effects of gambling and the prosecution of jueteng lords and their protectors in government?

Will the Senate give up and decide to just legalize jueteng and bring it out into open competition with Small Town Lottery and other forms of state-approved gambling?

If you ask this tired miron, I predict that none of that will happen. The inquiry is likely to just fade out in the afterglow of our notorious short span of attention.

* * *

DRAWS CONTINUE: If the goal of the Senate hearings is to land senators in the news, the inquiry is a roaring success.

If the intention is to shame key officials who do not share their bounty, the inquiry has half-succeeded.

If the intention is to scare jueteng lords into slowing down or completely ceasing operations, the inquiry has failed.

[In our hometown in the grip of four-termer Mayor Boking Morales whose staying power (four terms already!) amazes me, the winning combinations in the first two of the three jueteng draws yesterday were 20-31 and 18-11.]

If the noble intention is indeed to craft remedial legislation, that we will have to see.

* * *

HEARSAY: Aside from the data disclosed by Santiago, the Senate inquiry has not yielded much except for hearsay statements and loose pieces of paper containing names and numbers.

Imagine a senator dragging to court DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno or erstwhile National Police Chief Jesus Versoza or a governor and telling the judge: “Your honor, we have this pad paper where a retired bishop has listed the names of ranking officials receiving jueteng payola and.…”

Even pre-law students will tell you that won’t do. With our oversupply of eager legal beavers willing to defend anyone from anything, such cases can drag on till the dawning of eternity.

* * *

NOYNOY AWAITED: In the final analysis, the fate of jueteng lies in the hands of President Aquino, who DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo said has given clear orders to stop the numbers game.

But it is not clear what happened after that. Suddenly the DILG boss was saying later that he had been taken out of the loop, that he had been told to just focus on local governments.

The situation became murkier when the Aug. 23 hostage fiasco forced out the information that the national police – a crucial agency for fighting vice and crime – had been taken away from Robredo and given to Undersecretary Puno.

But President Aquino was later quoted as saying that eradicating jueteng was not a priority of his administration. The President may want to clarify where exactly he stands.

* * *

NOTHING NEW: The effects of jueteng and other forms of gambling on the individual and the community have been studied enough. The Senate and the academe cannot add much to the body of existing research materials.

If President Aquino puts his foot down – assuming he does not step on the toes of anybody close to him – and decides to stop jueteng, he should be able to do it.

It all boils down to political will. If the President says stop it, jueteng can be stopped.

The Chief Executive can execute his decision through the lowest and the highest echelons of government — down at the barangay level and up there on the plane of the national police. Barangay leaders know everything happening in their small community.

In tandem with the barangays, the police could also be unleashed on the vice lords. New PNP chief Director General Raul Bacalzo should make good his “one-strike” plan to relieve any commander where jueteng is caught in his area.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 23, 2010)

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