By Jun Ledesma
THE gospel in last Sunday Mass was about the total destruction Sodom and Gomorrah on account of the detestable things they do before the eyes of God. The story of the annihilation of these degenerate towns appeared not only in the Bible but also in the Koran. When Abraham heard of this severe punishment, he pleaded to God to spare the towns if he can find 50 persons who are innocent. He bargained after finding it difficult to see 50 and bargained some more to which God agreed to spare the towns if there are even 10 innocent people. There was none and so God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and saved only the family of Lot. His two sons-in-law who refused to leave the places of sin were among those who were incinerated and even Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back in the burning inferno.
The Gospel provides an uncanny semblance to why and how Pres. Rodrigo Duterte ordered the sudden and immediate closure of PCSO franchise operators of Lotto and STL (Small Town Lottery). I surmise that he may have been forgiving about some malfeasance in the operations of lotto and STL but when later discovered that of the billions of pesos collected by the operators only a morsel was remitted to the government, he finally decided it was time to shut down the operations of lotto and STL. The people in Sodom and Gomorrah, not only indulged in bestial lustfulness they too never help the poor and the needy. The semblance reeks.
By the time lotto and the lottery was legalized and placed under the supervision of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, the conservative estimates were that it should have remitted to the government about P50-billion. By the time the Commission on Audit alerted the PCSO, the lotto and STL is accountable for P8.7-billion and yet not a single centavo was remitted to the government coffers.
In short, some people are having Roman holidays with the income from Lotto and STL while the government is helping them promote the games on all media outlets.
Duterte loathes gambling but tempered this because of the national proclivity of Filipinos to gamble. Cockfighting is a nationwide delight, “jueteng” a favorite pastime in Luzon, “masiao” a poor man’s sweepstakes in the Visayas while “Last Two” is an opiate in Mindanao. Billions are collected by the operators from these illegal gambling games ergo the government decided to supplant these with small town lottery on top of Lotto.
In a rare chance meeting I interviewed Gen. Alexander Balutan (ret.) who was then appointed Chairman of PCSO and asked him how he would convince the illegal game operators and gamblers to migrate to STL. His explanation was brief but I found it to be easily doable.
General Baltan said that all police officers including the barangay councilman knew who are behind the operations of the illegal games. They are also aware as to how much bets are being collected by every operator every month. The Philippine National Police plays the most crucial role in stamping out illegal gambling, he said. Enforcement is the key to the success of STL.
Balutan’s strategy was to impose a collection/sales quota to every STL operator equal to the estimated amount of bets before they were awarded the franchise. Short of the quota would mean suspension or cancellation of the franchise. Balutan moreover expressed apprehension that the STL operators might just use their franchise as a legal front and continue with their illegal gambling operations would still continue. He stressed that PCSO would rely heavily on PNP in stamping out illegal gambling. Obviously, it did not.
The good general knows exactly what to do but that lavish Christmas party did him. Sandra Cam turned out to be a pain in his neck until it was time for him to go. To my mind then his exit was the triumph of illegal operators. “Last Two” games in Davao region proliferate with strange impunity. Not a few radio stations openly promote the illegal game and anyone can place their bets for “Last Two” on STL and lotto outlets or with ambulant collectors of bets.
President Duterte’s order to close STL and Lotto was expected. Lotto operations should have been spared but since most lotto operators are mostly STL franchise holders too and are operating in the same outlets where bets for illegal games are also accepted then both had to be closed. Rightfully so while the members of the Board of PCSO condone the venality and while PNP is in deep slumber.