Noynoy has told Jesse Robredo, the newly appointed Interior and Local Government Secretary, to clamp down on jueteng, an illegal numbers game that has been a thread running through Philippine public life for the last 10 years, touching both the previous two presidents.
Still, when it comes down to it, I can’t see that jueteng is so different from the many forms of state-sponsored gambling in the Philippines.
Jueteng employs tens of thousands of people, many of whom don’t have too many other options, as the film Kubrador showed. So a successful clamp-down on jueteng will take income away from many people who need it to survive.
The bets cast by millions of Filipinos every week indicate a demand for small-stakes betting that is not met by Lotto. Jueteng brings punters door-to-door personalized service and they like that.
If you believe in the market, surely the answer is to legalize jueteng, tax it heavily, and get the state out of gambling. The clamp down seems hypocritical when the state is so heavily involved in casinos and lotteries.
Noynoy’s instruction also seems to confirm a lack of empathy with the needs of the poor. In the short term all this will mean for poor people is hassle, greater police presence in the barangay, and ever larger pay-offs to corrupt policemen and politicians to encourage them to look the other way. It is revealing that the only candidate to support the legalization of jueteng was Erap, whose constituency is most affected by the criminalization of the game.
Let’s face it, Jesse Robredo ain’t going to be able to “stamp out” jueteng. I doubt whether there is anyone in the country who thinks that will happen. We will have the usual six-month fanfare, a few low-profile arrests, and then it will be back to where we were. So what’s the point apart from appeasing Archbishop Oscar Cruz?
Incidentally, today’s Inquirer reminded me of this interesting little story:
In May 2005, Wilfredo Cimanis Mayor, a confessed jueteng operator, testified at a Senate hearing that then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s son, then Pampanga Rep.Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, two other congressmen, and a former lawmaker used to send bagmen to collect gambling pay-offs from him.So I guess that was convenient for Mikey then.
Mayor said he was given Mikey Arroyo’s alleged bagman, Arturo Naguit, a former vice-mayor of Minalin, Pampanga, P600,000 a month as protection money.
Mikey Arroyo denied the accusation.
Mayor was killed in an ambush in Pasay city in February.