Monday, April 25, 2005

Pimentel challenges local officials to eliminate illegal numbers game

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel Jr. (PDP-Laban) has challenged governors and mayors to eliminate jueteng and other illegal numbers games all over the country.

Pimentel hurled the challenge at the conferment of awards on local government officials who have successfully stamped out jueteng in their provinces, cities and municipalities recently. The awardees were chosen by the Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng (KBLJ) or National Crusade Against Jueteng led by Dagupan-Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, also former president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

"Jueteng can be stopped and you, the local government awardees today, have shown how to do it. The beauty of your example is that you have proven that despite the difficulties, it can be eradicated with perseverance, pure motives and indomitable courage. And it is replicable by other equally-dedicated public servants all over the country," he said.

A former mayor of Cagayan de Oro City, Pimentel explained in his remarks why the situation now is more conducive for governors and mayors to fight jueteng and why it was difficult for them to pursue a similar task during the martial law years.

He said that during martial law, the police was under the control of the central government and the maintenance of law and order was primarily in the hands of the police.

"The governors and mayors at that time were bystanders in the process of enforcing the law in their localities," he pointed out.

Pimentel added that the corruption process – to get the authorities to look the other way – usually began with bribing the police to allow jueteng or masiao to operate in their backyard. And if the local police had the strong backing of their superiors, they could and did ignore the governors and the mayors, he said.

But today, with martial law gone, Pimentel said the power to protect jueteng in the provinces, cities and municipalities has shifted to corrupt local authorities from the corrupt police. He said the reason is that governors and mayors now have a lot of a veto power over whoever is appointed chief of police or provincial police director under the Philippine National Police Law.

"Now, the mayors and the governors can influence the conduct of the police officers assigned to take the top police posts in their local government units. The mayors and the governors have ample power to direct the police to stamp out jueteng in the respective towns, cities and provinces. If their anti-jueteng policies are not followed by the police, they could demand the replacement of the erring police officers or file the requisite administrative or even criminal charges against the offenders," he explained.

Pimentel said juetend can be permanently extinguished as a moral, social and economic plague if President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will pursue a no-nonsense execution of the law against illegal gambling and a graft-tree national police leadership will fully implement it.

"Unfortunately, under the circumstances, we can only hope that it will take place sooner than later," he said.

The lone senator from Mindanao also assailed renewed moves in Congress to legalize jueteng.

"Legalizing jueteng is tantamount to raising a white flag of surrender to an evil thing because as the fallacious argument goes it cannot be stopped anyway. With that twisted logic, should we not legalized prostitution, aborted and drug dealing, among other pernicious activities, because they cannot be stopped?" Pimentel said.

He expressed dismay that some national and local leaders of the country political, police and military do not see the evils of jueteng.

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