RETIRED Archbishop Oscar Cruz has given up the fight against jueteng, saying that as Benigno Aquino 3rd is president, the illegal numbers game will flourish.
Cruz claimed that the President’s pork barrel, the Presidential Social Fund (PSF), comes from illegal gambling.
“We have practically surrendered. We will no longer be active as before [in fighting jueteng]. We have done everything to solve the problem but we don’t see victory under this government,” the prelate told The Manila Times.
Asked to explain what he meant by “surrender,” Cruz said he sees no light in his groups’ crusade against illegal gambling because Aquino himself made jueteng operations “de facto legal.”
“When he assumed the presidency, he was asked why he doesn’t seem interested to stop jueteng despite his daang matuwid [straight path]. He said it is not his priority.
The conclusion is that there is no hope under him for jueteng to stop,” he stressed.
Cruz said that winning combinations are being published openly in public markets and bet collectors are freely roaming in the provinces.
The bishop also deplored the police’s half-hearted campaign against jueteng.
“These are all symbolic gestures from the PNP [Philippine National Police]. They make arrests once in a while and usually they net only the small fry. Those really blatantly involved in jueteng are the local executives from the mayor to the governor,” he said.
Cruz said that as of latest count, income derived from jueteng ranges from a whopping P35 billion to a maximum of P50 billion a month.
“Jueteng is there. It has become some kind of a daily bread for a lot of people. There is really no serious action against it,” the prelate bewailed.
He said their hopes dimmed further when Malacañang repeatedly defended the PSF, whose funds come from legal gambling operations of authorized government corporations such as the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
“Presidential pork is funded by gambling . . . as long as the sitting president is in Malacañang, nothing will happen [against illegal gambling],” Cruz said.
But Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. insisted that the PSF is not a form of pork.
“Pagcor funding for PSF is in accordance with law,” he said in a text message.
The PSF is considered as one of the funds lumped under the Special Purpose Fund (SPF) of the President which is being touted as Aquino’s own “pork barrel.”
It cannot be scrapped, according to another Palace spokesman, Abigail Valte, because it is not part of the annual General Appropriations Act. Besides the PSF, other lump sum funds under the SPF are the calamity fund, the contingency fund, and miscellaneous personnel benefits fund.
Expressing his exasperation over their “lonely crusade,” Cruz said that even the Senate did not help his group’s crusade to end jueteng.
“We had whistleblowers with us several times. We went to the Senate several times.
We have submitted to them the list of complete names of known illegal gambling operators. And all those times, nothing happened,” Cruz said.
As early as 2010 and just months into the Aquino administration, Cruz submitted to the Senate a list of alleged “jueteng” operators and jueteng payoff recipients. He named Gov. Amado Espino Jr. of Pangasinan among the operators, which the local executive flatly denied.
In 2005, confessed jueteng bagmen Richard Garcia and Demosthenes Abraham Riva linked former first gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, his son Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo and the late Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo of Negros Oriental to jueteng.
Prior to his death, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo led the fight against jueteng. Like Cruz, he identified Pangasinan as one of the areas where he encountered “the most resistance.” The other places were Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Quezon and Batangas.
Former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who is also a former chief of the PNP, figured that a regional police director got between P2 million and P3 million monthly from jueteng operators, and that a provincial police director receives as much as P1.5 million.