Filipino bishop, regulator at odds with police on gambling

Authorities confiscate illegal gambling paraphernalia, bet money, a grenade, and ammunition during a raid in a gambling den in the northern Philippine province of Pangasinan in 2016. (Photo by Karl Romano)

Duterte, police accused of not acting on promise to stamp out illegal gambling

Nelson Badilla, Manila 
Philippines
July 26, 2017

A Philippine agency tasked with managing the country’s gaming operations has backed a Catholic bishop’s claim that the government has not acted on a promise to end illegal gambling.

Alexander Balutan, general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, said “jueteng,” an illegal numbers game, continues to proliferate around the country.

Balutan said he was extremely disappointed with police for failing to act aggressively against jueteng and all forms of illegal numbers games.

In February, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order directing the Philippine National Police to go after gambling syndicates and unlicensed operators.

Duterte’s order was issued amid a reported US$1-million bribery scandal involving a Chinese casino tycoon and former Bureau of Immigration officials.

Duterte said the government “condemns illegal gambling activities as a widespread social menace and source of corruption.”

But Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan and a strong crusader against gambling, said the Duterte administration has not seriously carried out its campaign.

He said Filipinos are still waiting for Duterte to fulfill his promise. Archbishop Cruz said there are at least 41 other kinds of illegal gambling in the Philippines, besides jueteng.

“I hope I’m wrong but it’s impossible for illegal gambling to flourish without the knowledge of [government] officials,” he said.

For his part, Balutan said his office expects the police to “eradicate” all forms of illegal gambling so government-backed gaming operations will flourish and boost revenue for the government.

“I am disappointed and dismayed by the [police’s] performance,” said Balutan, a retired military general.

He said he has received reports that a number of police officials are receiving weekly pay-offs and bribes from gambling operators.

“What happens is only small-time operators and bet collectors are arrested, not the big fish,” said Balutan, adding that he is planning to ask the assistance of the military to act against illegal gambling.

Archbishop Crux, meanwhile, said he hopes that the government will carry out its promise to end illegal gambling.

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