MANILA, Philippines - The government is losing over P9 billion in revenues due to illegal gambling operations, according to Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.
Robredo sent a letter to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), pointing out the need to strengthen the small town lottery (STL) in the countryside to defeat jueteng operations.
“In sum, the government is forgoing around P9.083 billion a year because STL has significantly failed to curb jueteng... Its (STL) current annual revenue pales in comparison with the sales generated by jueteng,” Robredo said in his letter to PCSO chairperson Margarita Juico.
The letter dated July 27, 2010, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, revealed the figure was based on the report submitted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) on PCSO’s STL project.
The letter was made a few weeks before retired archbishop Oscar Cruz revealed that some government officials have been receiving P2 million monthly from illegal gambling operations.
The letter stated a comparison of STL’s annual revenue allocation of sales and PNP’s estimated jueteng gross sales/collections that showed the problems in the STL implementation in which the government is losing heavily in revenues every year.
Robredo said the losses in tax remittances to the Bureau of Internal Revenue
(BIR) amounted to P1,798,795,769.65, while in Local Government Units Charity Fund Share with P5,666,206,674 and the PNP Charity Fund Share with P1,618,916,192.69.
“In order to monitor the actual STL gross sales, perforated papers like the one used for the sweepstakes shall act like a receipt issued by the BIR which should be reported by the authorized agent corporations (AACs),” Robredo suggested.
Based on a comparative estimate of annual STL and jueteng revenue allocations of sales generated, a yearly total gross of STL was estimated at P1.770 billion as against jueteng with P37.746 billion.
The agent corporation commission of STL was only P88.504 million as against P1.888 billion, while the prize fund for STL was only P878.191 million while jueteng operators went with P18.684 billion.
The operating fund for STL was only P238.961 million while jueteng has P5.095 billion.
Since STL was designated to stamp out jueteng, Robredo suggested to PCSO that STL should be operated and drawn like jueteng.
Based on historical jueteng data, the AACs shall be given a fixed monthly “presumptive gross sales” which shall be included in their respective franchise or certificate of deed of authority provisions.
“Thus, the government taxes and the shares of LGUs, PCSO and the PNP are predetermined and secured. This scheme will also compel the AACs to be wary of bookies/jueteng operations in their respective test-run areas,” Robredo said.
Robredo also noted the STL franchising scheme should be amended, as the term STL connotes, the franchise should be awarded per municipality or city, after consultation with LGUs, the PNP and other local stakeholders.
He added that a local enforcement committee with representatives from all stakeholders may be organized to safeguard the proper implementation of the STL in the locality.
Robredo said the STL charity fund percentage sharing scheme should also increase the percentages for LGUs and the PNP.
“The local chief executives and the PNP may utilize 50 percent of their respective STL charity fund share for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), intelligence activities and as a social welfare fund,” Robledo said.
“In order to ensure transparency and fairness, PCSO should conduct all the regular (draws) covered by national television where results will now be the coming numbers in all STL areas,” he added.
Robredo said the minimum prize money will be equivalent to the jueteng winnings, except that when total winnings for the draw are less than the total allotted money for the winning, the difference will be added up and rolled over to the winnings in the succeeding draw.
On the other hand, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said illegal gambling operations would never stop since many local officials are on the take.
Estrada maintained his position to legalize jueteng and replace STL.
Estrada said his father, former President Joseph Estrada, even tried to legalize jueteng to give dignity and livelihood to its workers.
He said his father’s plan was to provide health and social insurance to jueteng cabos and bet collectors.
Estrada said jueteng cabos and bet collectors are usually forced to go underground because they have to make a living.
When asked on what will happen to STL if jueteng is legalized, Estrada said STL would have to give way to legalized jueteng.
Meanwhile, DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno said they are hoping to end jueteng operations with their proposed scheme for the PCSO-sponsored STL.
Puno told a radio interview that they have submitted to the PCSO their proposed scheme for STL to address the government’s problem on jueteng.
“We are optimistic that our suggestion will work out,” Puno told dzMM.
“The suggestion submitted to the PCSO board defined the percentage to be given to the operators, PCSO, local government units, and to the police force. Bettors can also witness the actual drawing of the winning numbers, and the operators can coordinate directly to the LGUs,” he said.
Puno maintained jueteng operators sent emissaries to him apparently to seek an arrangement with the government.
He said he turned them down to protect the integrity of the Aquino administration.
Puno said he even advised the emissaries to go legal.
Based on intelligence report submitted by the police, Puno admitted jueteng operations are prevalent in Central Luzon, particularly in Tarlac, President Aquino’s home province.
“I had a talk with Tarlac City Mayor Gelacio Ace Manalang, who assured me that there is no more jueteng in the city proper,” he said.
Robredo though maintained his conscience is clear and that he never received anything from jueteng operators.
“My conscience is clear. Probably they (jueteng operators) are trying to destroy the reputation of the President by sending emissaries to me,” he said.
Puno said he would carry out President Aquino’s guidelines against illegal gambling.
He said the DILG has started working on plans to address the problem on jueteng.
He said the DILG is coordinating efforts with the PCSO on the operations of STL in the countryside.
Puno added he would discuss the efforts with newly appointed PNP chief Director General Raul Bacalzo to implement the one-strike policy against erring police officials regarding jueteng in their areas.
Bacalzo, on the other hand, denied allegations that he was on the take on jueteng.
Bacalzo said it could not be possible since he has been confined within the walls of Camp Crame, the PNP national headquarters, for nine years.
“You trace my assignments. I have been here in Camp Crame for almost nine years after my stint in way back 2001 as provincial director of Nueva Ecija,” Bacalzo said.
After Nueva Ecija, Bacalzo said he was assigned as director of the PNP’s security Agencies and Guards Supervision Division (SAGSD), then to Headquarters Support Service (HSS) in charge of the security of the 31-hectare Camp Crame.
“So from then on for more than eight years I have been here in Camp Crame,” Bacalzo said.
“I’m willing to be investigated on my details. I was still a police colonel when I was assigned in Camp Crame.”
Jueteng whistle-blower Sandra Cam claimed Bacalzo’s name cropped up five years ago while she was testifying before the Senate.
“I am challenging you (Bacalzo) right now to check the Senate transcript,” she said.
Bacalzo, however, found an ally in anti-jueteng crusader retired archbishop Oscar Cruz who said their campaign against illegal gambling would be more fruitful under the new PNP chief.
“We just want to give him the opportunity to prove that he could help us in getting rid of the jueteng curse,” Cruz said.
Cruz said the former PNP chief Jesus Verzosa had failed in the campaign to get rid of jueteng.
He said Bacalzo, as the new PNP chief, should look into the problem because many policemen are also on the take on jueteng.
Malacañang said it would now be up to the Church and Bacalzo to answer allegations that they received bribe money from jueteng operators.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, however, said it would be best for Cruz to identify the officials and Church leaders who were supposedly on the take.
Valte added Malacañang is standing by its information that Bacalzo is clean.
“If Archbishop Cruz has these names, I think people would also like to hear these names. And the Church, being a separate institution, we’d like to leave it up to them to undertake any measures or to come up with guidelines as to these things,” Valte said.
“I think everybody wants to know who these people are in case there is really something behind these allegations,” she said.
Aurea Calica, Philippine Star