Jueteng in the Philippines dates back to as far as the Spanish era. Originated from China, it means Jue (flower) and teng (bet), is a very popular and widely played numbers game among Filipinos. Todate, Jueteng is said to generate receipts of 30 Billion Pesos per year. One operator can earn as much as 38 Million Pesos per day. Although illegal, Jueteng is everywhere especially in poverty striken areas. Its popularity crosses all boundaries of social and economic standings. Rich or poor can play Jueteng, but the poor sector where the lure of gaining quick riches is strong, mostly hit by this illegal numbers game.
Time and again, the issue of Jueteng comes and goes. It reached its height of notoriety in 2000 when deposed President Joseph Ejercito Estrada was accused of receiving as much as 500 million Pesos in Jueteng payolas. He was later found guilty of the charge of plunder.
No matter if congress calls for an investigation every now and then, about why Jueteng persists, it just continues and grows bigger and stronger each time. Same old names are popping up like Bong Pineda, Atong Ang, Governor Chavit Singson, Tony Santos, Boy Jalandoni and Danny Ang. Most of these names have merged with either politics, juduciary or just mere close friends of high ranking Philippine politicians, like Estrada and Macapagal-Arroyo.
In 1995, Rep. Bonifacio Gillego exposed Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee as a “notorious jueteng operator and maintainer”. Even a family as landed and as wealthy as the Cojuangcos of Tarlac have not been spared of jueteng allegations: Former Tarlac Rep. Jose Cojuangco Jr., the uncle of President Noynoy Aquino and brother of former President Corazon C. Aquino, had been implicated in a 1995 House hearing as intervening on behalf of jueteng operators.
In 2000, Chavit Singson accused then President Estrada of what none of his predecessors has done: systematize and centralize jueteng collections in the Office of the President – with the use of his powers and prerogatives – doing the biggest racket in the country-playing the role of a Godfather.
In 2005, Macapagal-Arroyo’s keens were implicated for receiving Jueteng payolas. She was also accused to have received campaign contributions from Pineda from as early as during her Vice Presidential sprees.
Now 2010, we are again in another Jueteng scandal. In the Senate Hearing, retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, handed over to Senator Guingona, the list of alleged Jueteng operators and recipients of payolas. It exposed the names of Retired General Jesus Verzosa and DILG Undersecretary Rico E. Puno to be receiving as much as 8 Million Pesos every month in Jueteng payolas. Both denied having received payoffs. Undersecretary Puno later announced he will file a courtesy resignation when the President arrives from a week long trip to the US. Congressman Teddy Casino says, dont wait for the President to arrive, resign now. The rest of the supposed operators named by Cruz likewise denied the allegations against them.
Senator Miriam Santiago, for the first time since she filed a leave of absence for hyperthyroidism, attended the senate yesterday to deliver a privilege speech regarding the issue of Jueteng. In her own words, suggesting that the Jueteng lords have found the perfect combination in an equation DILG+PNP=Jueteng, said,
“In a corrupt situation, all that is necessary is for the interior secretary and the PNP chief to gaze into each other’s eyes, and they fall in love instantly. If you look more closely, you will see that there are peso signs in their eyes, as they gaze lovingly at each other in an orgy of mutual admiration and mutual corruption”. Weird as it is, the Senator made her point clear in explaining why Jueteng continues to exist and prosper.
We have to face the fact that Jueteng has become a major concern for our country, if we are really serious about our goal for a better Philippines. We are left with 2 choices that we need to take seriously whichever we chose.
1. Enforce the law and eradicate the operation of Jueteng everywhere. Go after the operators and protectors and impose harsh penalties on them.
2. Legalize the operation of Jueteng and earn taxes from it that would help build more classrooms and food in every Filipino table.
Either of the two will surely sacrifice something good. If we chose to enforce the law, the question is until when will we be able to do that? Or its just good if we have faithful officials but what happens if we get to have the likes of Gloria Arroyo after 6 years? What happens if we get to have officials who has less resistance to bribery and the luring sum of payolas? Then we are back again.
If we chose to legalize it, Im afraid, we will just worsen the poverty situation of the country since Jueteng penetrates in the grassroots level and it will be like drowning our own people and teaching them to make gambling part of their daily lives.
The government of Noynoy Aquino should take this issue critically. This is something that requires thorough study and correct judgement and responsibility. But I trust we have the best person in the Presidency to handle this pressing issue. For as long as P-Noy continues to enjoy the people’s trust, nothing is impossible. Kaya ng Pinoy, Kaya ni P-Noy.