Can Duterte stop jueteng?

LEGAZPI CITY – Can jueteng and other forms of illegal gambling really be stopped?

President Duterte last week announced that his third target after drugs and corruption is jueteng and other forms of illegal gambling. The President has been quoted in the past saying that illegal gambling cannot thrive without the support of local executives and police chiefs. He cited jueteng-free Davao City where he was its mayor for 20 years.

Latest report quoted Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguire declaring that the war against illegal gambling has been readied to give way to the government-sponsored Small Town Lottery.

PNP Deputy General for Operation Ramon Apolinario said during the recent meeting in Malacanang that the revitalized anti-illegal gambling campaign would spare no one including the police, gambling operators, bettors and politicians with a relentless intensity likened to the PNP campaign against drugs.

Duterte’s seven months into office as president, saw the continud operation of jueteng in many parts of the country, like Albay, where its persists in the guise of so-called online Meredien gaming. This, despite a court order issued on August 6, 2016 by Dagupan Regional Trial Court judge Florentino Dumlao Jr. that dismissed an old Temporary Restraining Order issued by another court against a petition to stop Meredien Gaming in expanding its online “jai-teng” (combination of Jai-Alai and jueteng) operation outside its franchised area within the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority.

Some of the Bicol provinces had issued Meridien a clearance to operate since the late 2000 that shrewdly allowed jueteng operationto continue in their respective territories.

Prof. Salvador Flor, president of the Bicol Reporters Association (Bras), recalled how the LGUs and police officials continued asserting that the rise of jueteng cannot be avoided because of the support from the betting public.

And there was only one man in the name of Col. Ferdinand Lagman, then polce provincial commander of Albay (1983 – 1985) who was able to stop jueteng while it flourished in other r neighboring provinces. Lagman who died some years ago following his retirement had said during an interview that the pressure from the top no to be hard on juetengwas pervasive but he was able to prevail.

According to Flor, under Lagman’s watch, even guerilla-type jueteng operations miserably failed that for three long years Albay was jueteng-free. Of the Bicol six provinces, however, only Catanduanes remained free from jueteng ever since, except the proliferation of ‘loteng’ which is a variant game of chance using winning digits in lotto as basis for winning bets.

Last September 2016, PNP National Director Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa visited Legazpi City and met with the local regional officials headed by Chief Supt. Melvin Buenafe, the PNP regional director.

In a press conference with the local media and Gov. Al Francis Bichara at Pepperland Hotel, De La Rosa was asked when will be the crackdown on jueteng start.

De la Rosa replied that jueteng will follow after the crackdown on illegal drugs.

Many media practitioners, however, were unconvinced saying that a few selected mediamen who are close with incumbent local officials are on the payroll of illegal jueteng operators.