Sunday, April 24, 2005

Big 3 top PNP jueteng list

By Fe Zamora
Inquirer News Service

THEIR alleged code names are M1, M2 and JS7.

A ranking official of the Philippine National Police (PNP) claimed the three were the country's top beneficiaries of "jueteng" funds.

Talking under a cloak of anonymity, the official also alleged that they were close relatives of a top government official.

"Alam na namin kung sino-sino yon kahit naka coda (We know who they are despite their coded names)," the official said, referring to the trio.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye had said that the administration would maintain its tough stand against jueteng and that "there will be no sacred cows" in the fight against the illegal numbers game.

Patronized mainly by the poor, jueteng has reportedly become a P30-billion-a-year industry which government after government has failed to kill.

Allegations that ousted President Joseph Estrada received huge payoffs from jueteng lords led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives and his eventual overthrow in 2001.

According to the PNP official who talked to the Inquirer, M1 allegedly collects at least P5 million per month per province where jueteng proliferates, while M2 supposedly gets at least P3 million per province.

As a former head of a provincial directorate, the official admitted to the Inquirer that he himself had received jueteng money ranging from P750,000 to P1.5 million each month.

"Jueteng is just as rampant [as during the Estrada administration], and it still goes all the way up there," the official claimed.

It has become even worse in the sense that "outsiders" also get their allocations, the source added.

He cited the "example" of JS7, who is supposedly based south of Manila but who also allegedly gets from P3 million to P5 million in jueteng money from operations in Central and Northern Luzon.

"JS7 does not recognize boundaries. He goes all the way to the North, kaya magulo (that's why it's confusing)," the source also said.

The official made the allegations in the wake of claims by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz last week that jueteng operations had worsened under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The archbishop said more public officials were now "willing recipients and grateful beneficiaries of gambling payolas."

When it allegedly began

According to the PNP source, the "big 3" collectors "started asserting their presence" after Ms Arroyo was proclaimed the winner of the presidential election last year.

Before that, the source said, the trio "were just flexing their muscles."

But even the PNP cannot stop jueteng.

"It has become part of the system. We cannot stop it," the official said.

Padaca's 'lonely crusade'

Last year, when he was transferred to an office in Camp Crame national police headquarters, the official claimed the unit he was moved to also received a share of the money collected from jueteng operations nationwide.

He identified the provinces where jueteng remained rampant as Pampanga, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Quezon, Rizal, Bulacan and Laguna.

Fighting jueteng can be a "lonely crusade," Isabela governor and staunch anti-jueteng campaigner Grace Padaca told the Inquirer.

Padaca said that she was informed that as governor, her supposed share of jueteng money amounted to P3 million a month but she rejected it.

"The police can't help you because they will tell you 60 to 80 percent of their operation funds come from the mayors. Where do the mayors get it but from jueteng?" Padaca said on the phone.

An endless battle

Padaca was among this year's Parangal Para sa Bayan awardees for having maintained a "jueteng-free" province.

"We're fighting jueteng but it seems an endless battle," she said.

"We can launch campaigns but people also resist because jueteng is a form of entertainment. They say, why are the rich allowed to gamble in casinos? Education also has to come in," Padaca said.

Spurning her monthly jueteng share also had its consequence.

According to Padaca, political foes are now preparing to launch a "recall election" against her, using the total of P30 million in jueteng money she had rejected since she assumed office in June 2004.

Challenge to Arroyo

Catholic Bishop Ramon Villena challenged Ms Arroyo to stamp out jueteng.

"The scourge of jueteng can be eradicated if the President ... declares war on jueteng," he said in a statement.

Villena issued the statement on Friday as the Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng held its annual award rites in San Carlos City, Pangasinan, for local and police officials involved in the campaign against the controversial numbers game.

Villena cited two mayors in his diocese -- Ruben Sayo of Aritao town, Nueva Vizcaya province, and Richard Longid of Cabarroguis town, Quirino province -- for keeping their towns jueteng-free.

"If she claims that her victory [in the presidential election] was without jueteng grease, why does she not simply announce this in all television stations and national dailies," Villena said of the President.

'No to jueteng?'

Villena added: "She does not need to launch a military campaign. She needs no military forces, no strategic planning, no hard work in order to stop jueteng. All she needs is a pure, determined will to [stop] jueteng."

Villena said jueteng "stops when our local officials say so."

"Jueteng ceases when the governor orders the provincial [police] director to stop jueteng," Villena said. "Similarly, the entire Philippines will be totally free of jueteng when President Macapagal-Arroyo will be bold enough to categorically say 'no' to jueteng."

He said that while the administration had vowed to eradicate poverty, it had failed to curb illegal gambling which, he said, was the root of corruption. With a report from Melvin Gascon, PDI Northern Luzon Bureau

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