No 'jueteng' in Central Visayas, police official says

September 24, 2010 12:34 pm 

CEBU CITY, Sept. 24 – There is no "jueteng" in Central Visayas, a senior police intelligence officer said.

But Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Acting Regional Intelligence Division Chief Patrocinio Comendador Jr. said the most common illegal numbers games are "masiao" and "swertres."

Comendador said they are closely monitoring these illegal numbers games.

He said the list of illegal gambling operators and financiers in Central Visayas is now long enough to fill three legal-sized sheets of paper.

He, however, refused to name those being monitored.

Comendador also said not all police officials oppose a House bill to legalize jueteng, masiao, swertres and other variants of these illegal numbers games.

Comendador said the intention to remove corruption caused by illegal gambling operators who pay for official protection may be good. But he said legalizing more forms of gambling will discourage hard work and encourage people to "rely on their fate in gambling."

Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Ramon Melvin Buenafe said the proposal to legalize these illegal numbers games is "a good move" because it will give local officials the power to control, monitor and tax these activities.

"The Local Government Code, among others, empowers local officials in the development and self-determination of their localities," Buenafe said.

Buenafe said the government needs a more "holistic approach" against illegal gambling, and that relying merely on arrests made by the police is "superficial."

Mandaue City Police Office Director Noel Gillamac said it will be good for some of the money from gambling to go to government coffers.

While he admitted gambling "per se is morally bad," additional funds for the government will mean better basic services for residents.

But some mayors in Cebu said the extra income gambling will offer local governments would not be worth the problems it will cause, like more theft and worse, poverty.

"It needs a thorough study because I foresee a big reaction from the church. Even if it means revenues for the town, if it involves morality, we should look at the pros and cons," said Borbon Mayor Bernard Sepulveda.

Barili Mayor Teresito Marinas who, like Sepulveda, opposes the proposed law on this, said legalizing gambling is like teaching people to waste their money.

"There will be more losers than winners," he said.

One of the few who agree with the bill is Bogo City Mayor Celestino Martinez Jr., who believes the local government should at least earn revenues from gambling and make it more transparent.

"I am for the legalization of jueteng because you cannot stop it. At least, we can tax it and we will also know who the financiers are," said Martinez.

Talisay City Hall spokesman Arturo Bas, a former councilor, said he welcomes the move to legalize masiao, but the law must have provisions to prohibit minors from joining.

"It's fine with me because it can generate income for the city," said Bas. However, he also expressed apprehension that it may lure minors to start gambling early.

Daanbantayan Mayor Ma. Luisa Loot, who is against the proposal, said legalized gambling will cause a domino effect and threaten peace and order.

If gambling will be legalized, more people will end up stealing just to support their habit. We'll run out of cows and goats," said Loot.

"I don't think what we all know is wrong can be justified by making it legal," said Pinamungajan Mayor Geraldine Yapha.

Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos also objected to the social implication of the bill, which, in effect, says gambling is acceptable.

Mandaue City Vice Mayor Glen Bercede said he expects many, especially religious groups, will go against the move to legalize gambling.

"Definitely, we will have to consult various sectors," said the council's presiding officer.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama opposed the proposal.

"Why would we get into a culture of gambling in our society? We should promote a culture of hard work instead. It is not logical at all," he said. (PNA)

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