IF performance were the sole qualification for presidential wannabes, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas should already be out of the running. He has been weighed, he has been measured and he has been found wanting.
It seems it is only Mar’s Liberal Party (LP) allies and Balay-faction loyalists who are salivating at his almost certain endorsement by PNoy as the party’s standard bearer for the 2016 presidential race. This even though Mar has consistently ranked near bottom in surveys despite the P10-billion funding thrown his way by PNoy to buy new police cars and fire trucks, and another P13-billion for water supply and low-cost housing projects.
Of course, transparency advocates are now questioning how the money was actually spent since Mar has not fully and public disclosed the cities and municipalities, which were the recipients of his “generosity.” But that’s for another column.
Anyway, for the past few months, Mar has been going around different provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to distribute P1.8-billion worth of brand new Indian-made and Korean-manufactured patrol jeeps.
He’s been so busy with his campaign-cum-distribution sorties that Mar seems to have neglected his duties. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the continued proliferation of jueteng during Mar’s watch.
Why jueteng? Because the illegal numbers game is the epitome of corruption. The story of jueteng is the story of how the billion-peso bounty from illegal gambling has corrupted all levels of government and the police, and how criminals have co-opted the institutions tasked to uphold and enforce the law.
We recall that during his confirmation hearings as DILG secretary, Mar vowed to stamp out jueteng, saying all it took to eliminate the illegal numbers game was “political will.”
Mar declared then: “There are notable anecdotal and empirical evidences that when there is, in fact, political will, jueteng can be eliminated. And that is the political will that is necessary to stamp out this scourge of jueteng. That political will must be applied to both the local government officials as well as the police entities in that particular community.”
“Jueteng will only be present or flourish if, in fact, there is some sort of collusion or some sort of agreement as between the LGU officials and the police at the location. So, it’s really political will. The laws are on the books. It’s really a question of making sure that we implement the same,” he said.
Yet, with Mar at the helm of the agency having direct control over local governments and the police, jueteng continues to flourish.
Data from the PNP showed that jueteng remains rampant in several provinces, particularly in Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions. According to Sandra Cam, a numbers operator-turned-whistleblower, there are now four jueteng draws daily from the previous two or three. She also said the vice had spread to Iloilo and Negros, the regional bailiwick of Mar.
The lucrative pay out from the illegal numbers game has even led to a bloody turf war between jueteng lords, aided by corrupt law enforcers. One such case, the National Bureau of Investigation report says, is the ambush killing of reputed jueteng lord Vic Siman and his 12 companions at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon, which was allegedly staged by a ranking police official who is the “protector” of a rival gambling kingpin.
And if some PNP top brass are making big bucks off jueteng, why shouldn’t lower-ranking cops have their own “raket,” too? Perhaps this explains the apparent breakdown of discipline in our national police force, given the numerous crimes perpetrated by lawmen. It’s as if crooked cops no longer fear being caught or punished.
Just last month, two policemen and their seven accomplices were caught using the Batasan police station in Quezon City to illegally arrest people and then hold them for ransom – a practice known in police parlance as “hulidap.”
Also last month, another hulidap victim, Japanese businessman Kenji Tateishi, was rescued by lawmen after being arrested on trumped up charges and forcibly taken from his hotel in Samar by a crime gang headed by a police official. The victim’s relatives were told to cough up P5 million for his release.
And who could forget the Edsa hulidap incident which went viral on the internet after three police officials and 6 other policemen were photographed intercepting an SUV and grabbing its passengers in broad daylight and in the middle of Metro Manila’s busiest street? The victims were released but only after the rogue cops took away the P2-million cash they were carrying.
As DILG secretary, Mar obviously lacks the political will to stop jueteng and weed out scalawags in the police force.
If Mar is unwilling or unable to crack down on gambling lords and corrupt police and local government officials in spite of his vast powers and PNoy’s all-out support, do you think he’ll be able to do it when he becomes president? Impossible, right?