EDITORIAL - Hit them where it hurts
(The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2020 - 12:00am

After sacking three city police chiefs and several precinct commanders in Metro Manila for their failure to curb illegal gambling in their areas, Gen. Archie Gamboa is taking the campaign nationwide. The Philippine National Police chief has given all PNP regional directors one week to stop illegal gambling in their jurisdictions or be removed from their posts.

Gamboa, in a press conference last week, said he had forwarded to the regional directors a list of illegal gambling operators nationwide. The illegal operations were validated by the PNP Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group. The operators are involved in jueteng, small-town lottery, video karera and other forms of illegal gaming.

The PNP is reportedly adopting a one-strike policy against its members who either fail to stop the operations or deliberately refuse to crack down because they are receiving gambling payoffs. Such a one-strike policy is nothing new. Gamboa’s predecessor Oscar Albayalde had also given PNP members a “one strike, you’re out” warning – repeating similar admonitions from other police chiefs in the past.

The campaign has always been hobbled by the weakness of the law against illegal gambling, the lure of dirty money,  and the fact that certain gambling barons have successfully shifted to politics, thanks to weak laws against money laundering and tax evasion. In certain cities and towns, police chiefs report to local government executives who are actually the biggest gambling lords in the area.

Several years ago, during one particularly aggressive and sustained police crackdown, people working for the jueteng lords of Pampanga even publicly staged a rally, protesting the loss of their livelihoods – and the crackdown eased.

Certain quarters have called for clarity and consistency in the government’s policy on gambling, noting that the illegal nature of numbers games that cater to the masses, such as jueteng and masiao, breeds corruption. As long as such numbers games are illegal, however, the PNP must carry out its duty, which is to crack down on those who break the law as well as their coddlers in the police.

The campaign must also be complemented by a crackdown by other government agencies, which must nail down gambling lords for tax evasion and money laundering. Hit them where it hurts. As long as the gambling lords can keep their dirty money and enjoy the fruits of their illegal activities, there will be no end to this problem – even if every PNP officer is sacked under a one-strike policy.

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