Albay gov has no power to stop illegal gambling?
By Manly M. Ugalde LEGAZPI CITY --- Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara said he has no power to stop illegal gambling amidst the unending issue of jueteng operation in the province. The Philippine National Police claimed that the campaign against illegal gambling which began early last March this year would include all forms of illegal numbers game with threats to sue local officials and police found in cahoots with the illegal operation. President Rodrigo Duterte has made it clear that illegal numbers game cannot thrive in a community without the support of the local officials and the police. He cited that during his 22 years as Davao City mayor, jueteng and other forms of illegal gambling never prospered. Gov. Bichara early this month was quoted by Home Radio Legazpi as saying that he has no power to stop jueteng adding that only the police can stop it. The governor claimed that the allegations about the continuing jueteng operation in Albay was a result of the authority granted by the province in 2009 for the Meridien Vista Gaming in Cagayan to operate its online Jai-alai, according to the radio program Ronda Bicolandia of the said radio station. Concerned groups claimed that Meridien operation is merely used as a front for jueteng as LGUs could not even show proof of the firm’s remittances to the respective provincial, city and municipal LGUs where such gaming firm is supposed to be operating. In the first place there is no single online Jai-alai center one can see anywhere in Albay’s 16 municipalities and three cities, Ronda Bicolandia claimed. Ronda Bicolandia claimed that during their interview with Bichara, the governor allegedly admitted that the province has no record of Meridien Vista Gaming tax remittances since 2013. A former congressman, Bichara was elected governor in 2015. Bichara reportedly claimed in the interview that since illegal gambling is a police matter, he could not take his own action without courting the ire of other politicians. Bichara’s spokesman Danny Garcia, however, denied the governor was interviewed allegedly by the staff of Ronda Bicolandia regarding jueteng. It will be recalled that on Aug. 6, 2016, then Dagupan City Regional Trial Court Judge Florentino Dumlao Jr issued an injunction against Meridien Vista Gaming Corp Jai-alai operation popularly known “jai-teng” which is similar to jueteng, an illegal numbers game. Meridien jai-teng operation was introduced on March 7, 2009 to operate within the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). On April 1, 2009, however, CEZA issued a cease and desist order against Meridien to operate on the basis of the opinion from the Government Corporate Council declaring Meridien operation illegal and eventually recalled its permit to operate. Meridien went to court in Pangasinan that issued injunction in favor of Meridien allowing it to operate outside CEZA.