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CBCP slams GMA’s ‘lack of will’ to eradicate jueteng

- Sandy Araneta -
Despite the Arroyo administration’s renewed crackdown against illegal gambling — especially the illegal numbers game jueteng — the influential Roman Catholic Church thinks the government is not doing enough.

"There is no political will to eradicate the network of gambling in the country," Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said in a statement published in a CBCP newsletter.

"Jueteng can be eradicated. Political will is needed. When officials and law enforcers are determined to do their duty with a strong political will and do not waver from their sacred task, no matter the threat or the bribe or commission, jueteng would not have a chance."

Even corrupt officials and police officers who provide protection to illegal gambling rackets can be rooted out as long as public officials demonstrate political will, Quevedo added.

"Why can’t jueteng be eradicated? The conventional answer seems to be because gambling lords give protection and are protected, and that it will continue to operate so long as there are people who wish to place bets," he said. "That answer is partly true. But for me, the fundamental reason is the lack of political will."

In June, seven senior police chiefs were sacked by the National Police Commission for their reported failure to curb jueteng in their jurisdictions.

The seven officers protested their relief and denied they were remiss in their duty.

Interior Secretary Jose Lina, who is leading the government’s renewed campaign against jueteng, said the sacking was part of the administration’s policy of "command responsibility."

Quevedo said Lina, who has vowed to resign if he fails to curb jueteng in a year, "seems to be lone voice in the wilderness of officialdom."

"Public officials – from the President, the Senate, the House of Representatives, down to governors, mayors and kagawads must show their support more actively," he said.

Quevedo added ordinary citizens must "play a strong and active advocacy role against illegal gambling" to give the campaign better chances of succeeding.

"If its members act in solidarity – as a form of ‘social auditing’ – a local community can effectively throw out any form of illegal gambling from its midst," he said.

Despite repeated government campaigns against jueteng by past administrations, the illegal numbers game continues to thrive because local officials and police official reportedly have taken bribes to turn a blind eye.

In mid-2000, then Ilocos Sur governor Luis Singson, an estranged political ally, accused then President Estrada of collecting millions in bribes from jueteng operators.

Later that year Estrada was impeached on corruption charges that culminated in a military-back popular protest that ousted him in January the following year. He was arrested in April that year.

Estrada is now detained in a Quezon City military hospital and currently on trial on plunder and other charges.

ARCHBISHOP ORLANDO QUEVEDO

CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF THE PHILIPPINES

DESPITE THE ARROYO

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ILOCOS SUR

IN JUNE

INTERIOR SECRETARY JOSE LINA

JUETENG

LUIS SINGSON

QUEVEDO

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