By Luigi del Puerto
Inquirer News Service
THREE relatives of a top government official have been dictating who will get the top police posts in provinces with huge jueteng payola, according to a ranking police official.
In exchange, they get a substantial cut of whatever the police officials get as payoffs from the illegal numbers game.
"They're the influence peddlers. They get you a post, you give them a cut in your jueteng take," the police official told the Inquirer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The difference now," he said, "is that these three persons get both from the police officials and from the jueteng operators. That's how greedy they are."
In just one region in Luzon, they get a total of P2 million a month, shrinking the police officers' take from P5 million to P3 million. That's on top of what they get from the operators, also estimated to be in the millions.
Patronized by the poor, jueteng has reportedly become a P30-billion-a-year industry which government after government has failed to kill.
The provinces where jueteng remain allegedly rampant include Pampanga, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Quezon, Rizal, Bulacan and Laguna, according to the police official.
Allegations that ousted President Joseph Estrada received huge payoffs from jueteng lords led to his impeachment and eventual overthrow in 2001.
Reacting to allegations that senior officials receive millions in jueteng payola every month, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said these were unfounded.
"That is why even before these reports came out, the police had already ordered stations to intensify operations against all forms of illegal gambling," the PNP spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Leopoldo Bataoil, said.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye ignored the report that three relatives of a top government official were the top recipients of jueteng money.
"All we can say is that we consider jueteng illegal. This disease has been there for a long time and it will require the concerted effort of all sectors, especially our citizens, to help us reduce or totally stop it," Bunye said yesterday on dzXL radio.
The alleged code names of the three relatives of the top government official were M1, M2 and JS7. M1 is the oldest of the three; M2 is a young politician in Luzon, and JS7 is his uncle, the Inquirer source said.
Not only that, the source said, many local executives in Luzon provinces with huge jueteng operations were either directly or indirectly involved as financiers or managers of the illegal numbers game.
The politicians all have the blessings of M1, he said.
Many are either political allies or members of a party identified with the top government official.
When simply on the take, what a governor receives is the same as that of a police provincial director, the police official said.
He said the trio -- M1, M2 and JS7 -- lobby so their boys would get regional and provincial posts in Luzon considered to be "paradise" by the police because of the huge jueteng payoffs.
But these "outsiders" do not control all police officials, the source clarified.
A top police official confirmed that policemen "up to the provincial level" were on the take in some of these regions. But regional police chiefs and the top brass in the PNP were not, he said.
He explained that posts in these regions were given to some of the best police officers as a form of "reward."
"As you will notice, all the best officers are assigned in Central or Southern Luzon, and they usually deliver," he said.
In many instances, what the officers receive from jueteng subsidizes police stations and is used to finance operations, according to the official.
The PNP leadership turns a blind eye to the arrangement. "If it can be helped, the police say nothing about it. We're silent. But this does not mean the top officials encourage it," he said.
"That's the way it goes. If a police chief receives money from jueteng, that's the risk he takes. Sorry for him if someone squeals on him in the province," he said.
Regional chiefs and top officials in Camp Crame, the PNP general headquarters, already have "many other sources of money" and are careful not to dip their hands into jueteng, he said.
"As your (career) advances, you become more careful. I don't think they (top police officials) touch it (jueteng money)," the official said.
But the Inquirer source claimed otherwise.
A unit in the PNP acts as the "bagman," collecting around P22 million a month for the big bosses.
"So everybody's happy, from the police chiefs in the provinces to the generals in Crame," he said.
"The system has been in place for quite sometime. Inabutan na ni Art yan (It's been there before Art)," he said, referring to PNP Director General Arturo Lomibao.
Reacting to the news reports that jueteng operations were on the rise, Lomibao ordered anew a crackdown on jueteng.
"Lomibao ordered all the regional directors (in) Region 1 to Region 5, the Cordillera (Autonomous Region) and NCRPO (National Capital Region Police Office) to intensify the all-out campaign [to stamp out jueteng] in view of persistent reports of increasing jueteng operations," Bataoil said in a text message sent to the Inquirer.
He noted that in an earlier memorandum, Interior Secretary Angelo Reyes had directed the police to form a Task Force on Anti-Illegal Gambling and to be more aggressive in their anti-jueteng campaign.
The head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Chief Superintendent Ricardo Dapat, now heads the task force.
Policemen have also been reminded of the three-strike policy. The policy states that if there have been three successive successful operations against jueteng in a province or region, the provincial or regional police chief will be sacked.
"[Lomibao] reiterated that the previous policies [on] command responsibility stands, and violators will be dealt with accordingly," Bataoil said.
President's home province
The government's campaign to stamp out jueteng is being hobbled by the unfettered operations of gambling lords in Pampanga, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's home province, Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said yesterday.
"In fact, there's no honest-to-goodness action from Malacañang [to eradicate the illegal numbers game]," said Pimentel, who filed a resolution seeking an inquiry into the implementation of the year-old anti-jueteng law.
The Senate minority leader said that the authorities had failed miserably to enforce Republic Act No. 9287, which was signed into law in April last year and imposes higher penalties and fines on jueteng operators.
"If we go by the records, only the runners -- the hoi polloi -- are being rounded up. Not the big ones," he said. "And the information filtering into my office is that a number of jueteng protectors are not only members of the police but also local officials."