By Manly M. Ugalde
LEGAZPI CITY (BicolToday.com) – The recent resurrection of the Small Town Lottery (STL) launched by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office in Bicol have yet to dismantle the already embedded illegal numbers jueteng from the minds of the poor.
In May, the PCSO initially launched STL outlets in Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Sorsogon. It was not clear, however, if the PCSO had already launched its STL outlets in the provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate with the two island provinces being included in the PCSO list for future STL outlets in the region.
Of the six Bicol provinces, Albay topped of having the highest in jueteng collection based on the conducted Senate investigation on jueteng during President Arroyo’s term.
In 2009, following the closure of the Albay STL outlet due to rampant jueteng operation and bookies, an online gaming of Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. allegedly owned by Atong Ang and operating with exclusive franchise at the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), however, was granted permit to branch out in Albay by virtue of a provincial board resolution.
The Church led by the Diocese of Legazpi complained that the entry of Meridien gaming in Albay resulted to the proliferation and a well-entrenched jueteng operation.
Interviewed by the media in May, Gov. Al Francis Bichara claimed that Meridien did not have a single remittance of taxes to the province since 2013 despite its continuing operation. He said he could not interpose objection against Meridien operation because of the existing provincial board resolution granting Meridien to operate.
Bichara claimed that the issue against illegal numbers game in the province was a police duty, adding any action he would take against Meridien will certainly hurt other local politicians.
On June 20, Bichara’s executive assistant Danny Garcia said the controversial Meridien Gaming has finally dismantled operation.
Last week, PCSO general manager Alex Balutan threatened it would trim down STL income share for the Philippine National Police because of its drive against jueteng that affects many STL outlets.
But jueteng continues to persist this time with jueteng bet collectors no longer roaming around the barangay to collect or accept collections from bettors, but through the use of a cell phone. Bet collectors simply send text messages to his clients who, in turn, sends his numbers to bet and the amount involve. The source said, the bet collectors then inform the cabo of his solicited numbers and corresponding amount of bets which are remitted before the deadline of the draw.
In Tabaco City, deputy police chief Police Senior Inspector Jon R. Retumban said they are in full blast against the illegal numbers game adding the police are already aware of the latest modus operandi in jueteng collection using a cellphone.
According to a source, in his barangay, the bet collectors for jueteng are same old people in the jueteng trade who already have their clientele.
On Tuesday, police chief Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa warned he would relieve his regional and provincial directors, or remove their authority to relieve their police chiefs should they fail to stop jueteng in 15 days. [BicolToday.com]