Unknown to the public there are ongoing marathon hearing on the Small Town Lottery at the House of Representatives. During the time of FVR presidency, the government undertook initiatives on legalized gambling and the choice was to either legalize jueteng or the lotto. The lotto was picked and even the church backed this. At the time the ticket was just P10, however, there was a clamor for games with smaller bets, hence, jueteng still proliferated. That is the reason why during the previous administration, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tasked the PCSO to help in the campaign to stamp out jueteng and to democratize charity at the national and local levels by introducing an alternative—the Small Town Lottery or STL.
It proved effective since it is transparent and its draws could not be rigged unlike jueteng. During its first year of operations (2006-2007), 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. By 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, Batangas. At the end of the previous administration and with 33-percent coverage, these legal STL operators were already remitting P1.6 billion to the government. More importantly, the government was able to give jobs to more than six hundred thousand people, mostly coming from the indigent class.
In stark contrast, with five years in and with its term coming to an end, this present administration has done nothing to match these achievements and STL operations in the country has stagnated at 33 percent. And now comes the marathon hearings which target legal operators of STL and benefits illegal operators who do not remit to the government.
In the 15th Congress, as Minority Floor Leader, I kept insisting that if we are serious about combating the illegal numbers game, we should expand the coverage of the STL which remits to the government and benefits the LGUs and strengthens the PNP. However, this administration has chosen to remain inutile and inert. Corollary to this, jueteng, together with drugs and smuggling have reached new heights under this administration.
Could it be because the powers that be are actually benefitting from the continued proliferation of the illegal numbers game? “jueteng” and other illegal numbers game has been consistently linked with government officials and has been alleged as an easy vehicle for politicians to gain both financial and public support, especially during the height of election seasons.
It is a P20 billion-P30 billion industry and lamentably has continued to thrive due to the support of many of our local government officials and the Philippine National Police. Given this magnitude, it is not hard to conclude that this money can easily be used to elect only local and national officials. There have also been allegations that the present PCSO has been raiding STL operators to give way to “favored” personalities sympathetic to this administration.
According to news reports, the PCSO board was not aware of the ongoing raids by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, and that Maliksi did not ask the board’s permission to direct the NBI to conduct such raids. With the elections just around the corner, legal STL operators are being victimized by what seems to be a nefarious band of yellow hoodlums out to perpetuate a straight path to anarchy and oblivion.