MANILA — The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) on Monday urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to fulfill its responsibility to eradicate all forms of illegal numbers game and protect the operation of Small Town Lottery (STL) instead of harassing Authorized Agent Corporations (AACs).
The AAC were authorized by PCSO to operate the STL.
PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan said the PNP would likely get better results if they stage real operations against illegal gambling syndicates instead of raiding government-authorized STL operators who are running legitimate businesses.
“We are aware that STL is being used and abused by some illegal gambling operators to legitimize their business, that they have been using it as a front to cover their illegal operations, that is why we are urging the PNP to do their job to go after these gambling lords who are using PCSO products as cover for their illegal operations,” Balutan said in a statement.
He said PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should arrest the gambling syndicates who are operating in the guise of STL, including STL collectors who moonlight as illegal bookies and seem to think they will not be arrested and can freely operate illegal numbers game under the guise of STL in their areas of operations.
Balutan made the comment after Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal complained during a congressional hearing last Wednesday that illegal gambling lords are still operating in his district.
“I’m speaking on what is going on in my province, particularly in my district, so that this will be stopped. This was stopped prior to the granting of authorization of your STL players there but it has now resumed in the guise of STL,” Oaminal said during the hearing.
Balutan, a former Marine general who spent most of his military career in Mindanao, said he was aware of the matter and agreed that illegal gambling can be stopped and has been stopped in the past by law enforcement agencies.
“We will [again] bring this matter to the PNP chief Ronald Dela Rosa and ask them to go after the illegal Swertres operators in Mindanao,” Balutan said.
Last year, PCSO and PNP entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) stating the latter’s responsibilities of helping the PCSO with the operations of the expanded STL by cracking down on syndicates operating jueteng, swertres, masiao, and other illegal numbers game in the country.
Dela Rosa ordered a crackdown on illegal gambling for 15 days in August, but to this date, illegal gambling continues in different parts of the country and seems to be unstoppable.
Balutan reiterated that PCSO increased the number of AACs and even hiked the share of the PNP in PCSO earnings precisely to help stop illegal gambling and, in the process, increase the benefit of poor Filipinos.
He asked the public not to patronize jueteng and other forms of illegal gambling because that will only perpetuate corruption in Philippine society.
“Report all the people involved to discourage financiers from continuing with their illegal activities,” Balutan said, adding illegal gambling thrives only because of unscrupulous officials who have bribed by gambling lords.
Balutan noted that PCSO has increased its authorized STL operators from 18 to 92 to help increase revenues for its charitable health services. Of the 92, 72 are already operating all over the country as of August.
“STL operations from different parts of the country helped us big time in the increase of our revenues wherein 30 percent of the revenue are being used for the charitable services of the agency, particularly health,” Balutan said.
The general manager again urged the PNP, including the NBI, and local officials to work on together in curbing illegal gambling in their areas.
“The PCSO will always here to help you in this quest. We will not allow crime lords to use STL as front to make their illegal business appears legal in the eyes of the betting public,” Balutan said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a marching order to stamp out illegal gambling, particularly “jueteng” which continue to proliferate in different parts of the country.
There are now 92 STL operators that have been accredited from the original figure of 18.
STL retail receipts for the first semester this year is PHP6.17 billion as compared to last year’s PHP2.47 billion. (PNA)