By Juliet Labog-Javellana, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Michael Lim Ubac
Inquirer News Service
LAWMAKERS want to know the identities of the three relatives of a top government official known by their code names M1, M2 and JS7 who are allegedly the biggest recipients of payoffs from "jueteng" operations in the country.
"I am calling for a Senate investigation to unmask the persons behind the code names M1, M2 and JS7," Senate President Franklin Drilon said.
Drilon said he would file a resolution calling for an investigation of the beneficiaries of the illegal numbers game after the Inquirer reported how the relatives of the top government official had been raking in millions of pesos as protection money from jueteng operators.
Drilon said Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. had been calling for an inquiry into the alleged failure of the Philippine National Police and local officials to implement Republic Act No. 9287, the law enacted last year against jueteng, a P30-billion-a-year industry.
A ranking police official said M1, M2 and JS7 were getting a total of P2 million a month from police officers in just one region in Luzon, reducing the take of the officers to P3 million. The P2 million was on top of what the trio receive from operators of the illegal numbers game.
The Inquirer source said the relatives of the top government official were also influencing the assignment of police officials to provinces with huge jueteng payola.
Asked to comment on speculation that M1 was First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and M2 was his son Pampanga Representative Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said: "We don't engage in rumors."
The young Arroyo refused to comment on whether members of the First Family were being alluded to by the whistle-blower.
"I don't think so because I have nothing to do with that. Our names are not being mentioned," he said.
"When I read the Inquirer, it didn't come across my mind that (he) was referring to us. What was said was that those involved were close to a top government official," the Pampanga representative said.
He called on the whistle-blower to come out in the open and name names so "we can get to the bottom of this."
Drilon said the allegations of corruption involving close relatives of a high-ranking government official should not be taken lightly.
"We should not forget that the very same charges caused the downfall of a former President. We must not underestimate the Filipino people's continued distaste for public corruption spawned by jueteng operations," he said.
Detained President Joseph Estrada was impeached and booted out of Malacañang after Ilocos Sur Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson disclosed that he had been receiving payola from jueteng operators.
Admitting that the issue was affecting the President, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez urged the whistle-blower to come out and prove his allegations.
"If it's true, they have better come out now. It's unfair, it reflects badly on the President," Gonzalez told Department of Justice reporters.
He said the whistle-blower should come out like Singson.
Opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson, Estrada's former police chief, said he knew the jueteng payola takers code-named M1, M2 and JS7.
"I just know them," Lacson said, but he declined to name names.
"It's obvious who these people are. Let it not come from me. You can guess who these people are, (if you read) between the lines," he said.
He said the names of the beneficiaries of jueteng payoffs would surely come out if the Senate investigation was conducted.
Lacson reiterated that when he was chief of the PNP he never accepted jueteng money.
He said jueteng money was used during national elections in May 2004.
"It started in the election, fund-raising for the election. That is why there were many who were appointed because of their contribution to the election from jueteng," Lacson said.
In the House of Representatives, Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez moved to take the heat off the President's family and relatives.
Golez filed House Resolution No. 747 which sought authority from the plenary to open an inquiry into the "reported increase in illegal gambling activities."
He said the House committee on public order and security should take the lead in the inquiry, followed by the House committee on games and amusement.
But Golez said the inquiry would not focus on the involvement of M1, M2 and JS7.
"I don't think we should react to a blind item," said Golez.
He said Congress should instead look into the exposé of Dagupan-Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz.
The resolution cited a study by the Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng headed by Cruz showing that "jueteng and other illegal numbers games are in fact more rampant today than during the governance of President Joseph Estrada."
With report from Armand N. Nocum