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By Manly M. Ugalde LEGAZPI CITY --- The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office that has revived the Small Town Lottery (STL) is reportedly not making money as a result of the uncontrolled proliferation of bookies in the province of Albay. STL Albay opened operation early last May with Lucky 5 Corp from the Tagalog region as the operator, according to Danny Garcia, executive assistant at the Office of the Provincial Governor of Albay. The problem hounding STL operation in the province was confirmed by PCSO deputy general manager Florante Solmerin in a radio interview here last week. Sources said despite the revival of the government-sponsored small town lottery that seeks to eradicate the illegal numbers game called jueteng, the latter continues to exist. They said that STL bet collectors are moonlighting for the more popular and affordable jueteng. Veteran jueteng bet collectors are now reportedly using cellphone texting to accept bet numbers while the legitimate STL bet collectors collect the bets in their behalf. It will be recalled that Albay was known to be a leading source of jueteng money in Bicol as exposed by then-whistleblower Wilfredo Boy Mayor (now deceased) during a Senate inquiry during the time of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In 2009, the Meridien Vista Gaming with franchise to operate inside the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority was granted by the Albay provincial board an authority through a resolution to operate in the province. The Diocese of Legazpi condemned Meridien’s entry in Albay saying it would only serve as a front for jueteng. Gov. Bichara who succeeded Gov. Joey Salceda after the May 2016 election has admitted before the media that Meridien Vista did not have any record of tax remittance to the capitol since 2013. Capitol spokesman Garcia has told newsmen here that Meridien had already stopped operation as of June 25 following the entry of STL in Albay. According to Solmerin, the proliferation of STL bookies in Albay was a result of a quarrel among the 3 major partners of Lucky 5. Solmerin warned during a radio interview that the warring Lucky 5 partners should resolve their conflict immediately as PCSO could not afford to see the STL operation losing money. Earlier, PCSO General Manager Alex Balutan threatened to cut the Philippine National Police’s share from income derived from STL because of the law enforcers’ alleged poor performance against jueteng. In response, PNP National Director General Ronald De la Rosa warned that any regional and provincial police official would be relieved from their posts if they fail to stop jueteng operation of jueteng and other forms of gambling in their respective areas. Meanwhile, the Albay Provincial Board has reportedly unanimously approved last week a resolution seeking to stop the operation STL operation in Albay under Lucky 5, Inc. Signed by the entire members of the board, the resolution was reportedly immediately sent to the Albay Police Provincial Office for information and appropriate action. It was learned that Lucky 5 had so far remitted an amount not greater than P180,000 for a month-long operation of STL in Albay against what it had projected an income of P2.5M daily. Provincial Board Member Allan Ranola confirmed in a text message the existence of the resolution that emanated from the Committee on Games and Amusement under SP Committee Chairman Job Belen.

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