Filipinos are known to hold strong beliefs in chance, luck and fate, thus explaining their love for engaging in numbers game.
A widely popular illegal game of chance in the country is jueteng, played both by the rich and the poor, but mostly those in the bottom of the strata or unemployed, justifying their fixation as form of recreation, a pastime.
Although some people think there’s nothing wrong with playing jueteng, this may be costing them their hard-earned money and little did they know, only the gambling lords and their protectors are benefiting from this vice.
“Not only [are funds from]jueteng or illegal numbers game going directly to the gambling lords and protectors without tax,jueteng money is being used for bribes and to fund political campaigns,” Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) General Manager Alexander Balutan explained.
Compared to jueteng, the government earns more from Small Town Lottery (STL). In fact, the February sales of STL has hit P1,946,395,655 which is a 4.13 percent increase from its P1,869,263,505.42 sales in January.
“We would like to attribute the increase in our STL revenue to the number of operating Authorized Agent Corporations (AACs), which is 83, compared to [only]20 AACs in January 2017, and their PMRR [Presumptive Monthly Retail Receipt], and of course to the betting public who continues to support our lottery games,” said Balutan.
The rise of STL
STL is a regular game by PCSO authorized by the national government through Section 1 of Republic Act 1169.
AACs are corporations or cooperatives duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), respectively that applied, been duly qualified and expressly authorized by the PCSO to conduct STL in a particular area.
Since the launch of STL in 2006, the earnings were fixed at only P4.7 billion a year. That time, there were only 18 operating AACs.
The PCSO Board studied why it was stuck to 18 AACs and found out that the system was controlled by big gambling lords.
“Ayaw nilang i-expand, dagdagan o palawakin ang STL sa mga probinsiya kung saan malakas ang jueteng at iba dahil talagang matatalo ang mga gambling lord na ito. Wala silang mapagkukunan ng pampayola nila sa mga inaalagaan nilang corrupt na opisyal para tuloy ang kanilang illegal na gawain,” said Balutan.
In February 2017, PCSO launched the expanded STL. From 18 AACs, the Board approved 56 until the addition of even more AACs, hence it became 92 as of latest count.
By the month of May last year, STL gained an average earning of more than P1 billion.
The year 2017 ended with STL making history due to its record-breaking earnings of P15,750,895,045 which means it increased by 183.63 percent. Jobs created in 2017 number 280,722 compared to 173,861 in 2016.
Jueteng falls so is a notorious gambling lord
In November 2017, a notorious gambling lord in the country was quick to protest and said that STL earnings should have been more than P6 billion a month.
“This gambling lord pockets P2.37 billion a month from jueteng and pares. With the expansion of STL operations, his area narrowed and his operations are slowly perishing,” Balutan said.
The PCSO general manager was referring to Atong Ang.
Sources were quick to assume that this may have been the reason for the series of attacks made against the agency, such as the “extravagant” Christmas party issue which President Rodrigo Duterte himself junked and problems with AACs whose contract should be terminated because of incorrect Presumptive Monthly Retail Receipts (PMRR) remittance.
Police intelligence officials said that in the past, “whenever jueteng is raised and media sensationalizes, with the help of congressional investigations, this notorious gambling lord comes in with his candy-coated STL proposal.”
This gambling lord is reportedly “orchestrating the sudden noise on jueteng” and funding media campaigns to discredit government officials allegedly receiving payola from the racket.
According to a report published in a national tabloid, a police official said that “this gambling lord reportedly collects P2 million daily, but only half a million goes to PCSO.”
The gambling lord allegedly used this same skimming-off-the-top method in other provinces, but cannot penetrate Pampanga, Bulacan and Ilocos Sur because local officials strongly resisted his entry in those places.
But amid all the attempts to destroy the image of the agency and his reputation, Balutan assured the people who look up to PCSO for deliverance and the gaming public as well that he will not allow it –maneuverings of the gambling lord to get into PCSO to look like he’s into legal operations as AAC owner.
“Not during my term,” retired Major General Balutan said firmly, like the decorated military officer of the Philippine Marines that he is.
“I shall not fail the President and the countless indigent patients who look up to PCSO for deliverance. I shall guard the PCSO with my life if necessary, against those who might want to destroy it so that they can take over our gaming operations at the expense of the PCSO and the people. I will not allow it. Not while I’m around,” he vowed.
Renewed hope for STL
Much has already been done to curtail or eradicate jueteng, but had not been successful until recently.
In 1987, STL was first launched by then President Corazon Aquino, hoping to stamp out jueteng and the illegal numbers game.
While jueteng involves a pair of numbers from 1 to 37 and STL choices are from 1 to 40 and were drawn locally compared to PCSO-run lotto, both involved betting on two-number combination and similar mechanics.
A House inquiry found that STL authorization had been awarded to the same people behind jueteng and was being used as front by illegal numbers game operators. The inquiry led to the stoppage of the first STL operations in 1990.
In 2005, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo revived STL with PCSO as the lead operating agency.
On December 28, 2005, the PCSO board approved a resolution, calling for a test run of the game. Resolution No. 464 likewise effected the approval of rules and regulations governing the STL operations in selected pilot areas in Luzon.
In February 2006, PCSO launched the new, reinforced STL, incorporating the lessons learned from the first STL, under a test-run mode.
By operating under a test-run mode for a period of one year, the PCSO was able to adopt changes needed to make the game effective as a local government-based charity mechanism for PCSO, even as the new STL provided livelihood for those displaced by President Arroyo’s anti-jueteng campaign.
By the end of 2007, PCSO has launched the STL in 15 approved test-run areas. These include Quezon Province, Angeles City, Bataan, Occidental Mindoro, Pampanga, Laguna, Bulacan, Negros Oriental, Iloilo City, Tarlac, Oriental Mindoro, Ilocos Norte, Albay, Olongapo City and Batangas.
During its first year of operations (2006 to 2007), STL generated revenues totaling to more than P3 billion, creating about 62,500 jobs and livelihood for displaced cabos and cobradores, as well as for the organic staff of the agent-corporations.
The PCSO Charter, or RA 1169, particularly on revenue allocation, provides that the revenue of the PCSO shall be allocated to 55 percent for prize fund (payment of prizes), 30 percent for charity fund (various charity programs and services) and 15 percent as operating fund (maintenance and operating expenses).
BY MYLENE ORILLO