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Isabel Maria C.

Fernando English 10 Pustahan Tayo

October 15, 2012 THW 6

These two words are very common in the Philippines, the best translation being Lets bet on it. Naturally, for this phrase to be said so often, the Philippines must have a very wide gambling culture. And she does. From the common laborer who bets loose change on little card games like tong-its and pusoy dos or chess or checkers (commonly known as dama) along the sidewalks, to the rich entrepreneur who finds himself betting thousands at the poker table. From the single mother who buys a lottery ticket in the hopes of winning the jackpot to the well-off doa who regularly hosts a mahjong night with her friends. Perhaps the feelings of anxiety and excitement are heightened when money is thrown into the mix. Maybe the idea of gaining money through a simple game is appealing. Or maybe its just the way Filipinos form stronger bonds with friends. And when the money is lost, there is the lingering sensation of I know where I went wrong therefore I will surely win my money back next time. Whatever the reason, gambling is one of the favorite Filipino pastimes. Perhaps the most controversial form of gambling in the Philippines is jueteng. According to an article in the Filipino Journal by Perry Diaz, jueteng comes from the Chinese words hue and eng, literally meaning flower bet. A kubrador (or numerous kubradores, depending on the area) goes around collecting bets. Players place a bet on two numbers, usually from 1 to 37. The

numbers are placed on chips or balls, and two numbers are drawn to determine the winning combination. For bettors, the appeal of engaging in jueteng is in its affordability. Lottery tickets in the PCSO sweepstakes usually cost 10 or 20 pesos for a one in 15 million chance. Jueteng, on the other hand offers a one in 700 chance, not to mention the fact that people can wager as little as one peso, for an average of Php 700 in returns per peso bet. For the operators, the appeal is in its simplicity and opportunity. Selling of jueteng tickets has little need for capital, and bet collectors can earn 25 to 30% of their sales (Pefianco). With the availability of technology, operators have now taken to using chat, text and e-mail to collect bets and announce winning numbers (Mallari et al., A18). Because there are so many who participate in these games, they can easily gain profit, the total daily collection from jueteng being Php50 million, according to Senator Panfilo Lacson (qtd. in Yamsuan, A1). Because of its popularity and the profit to be gained, I believe jueteng should be legalized. What makes the game illegal in the first place? In an online article from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Jueteng operations rely on trust between the bettors and the operators. Bettors trust the operators to keep the game clean and straightforward. Operators trust the bettors to continue betting in order to keep the operations alive. If the operator is caught cheating by even one of the bettors, he loses support for his game. Bets and

prizes will both decline and he is more vulnerable to takeover from other jueteng lords. Despite this, many operators cheat during the draw. A simple modification in the container of the chips or balls can ensure that two pre-selected numbers come out during the drawing of a winning combination, thereby controlling the winners. Aside from the lack of any taxes and therefore income on the part of the government, the huge possibility of cheating is what makes jueteng illegal. Legalization of jueteng will also ensure that government officials no longer receive money from operators who wish to keep their business running. According to an article from Inquirer.net, the illegal numbers game was given particular attention during the impeachment trial of Joseph Erap Ejercito Estrada, wherein Ilocos Sur Governor Luis Chavit Singson gave his testimony on Erap accepting money from jueteng operators. However, the former president is not the only official linked with jueteng. The Arroyos, from the Pampanga representative and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to former first gentleman Jose Miguel Mike Arroyo have been accused of being involved in jueteng. Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno and PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa have been also been listed as recipients of jueteng money. With the total jueteng take at Php 50 Million a day, the government is wasting a golden opportunity to profit from the game by not legalizing and taxing it. If jueteng is legalized, jueteng lords will no longer have to spend to keep their operations under the radar. More people will be more confident in participating in jueteng because they are reassured that, because of its legality,

there are no strings attached and the actual draw is free from any form of manipulation. The more people who bet, the more the jueteng lords will earn. Because of the money needed to provide licenses and to pay taxes, their profit margin will be significantly less than what they would get if the operations are underground, but they will profit nonetheless, and they will no longer fear having to stop operations because of raids and arrests. There are have been numerous attempts to stop jueteng operations. One of the more known attempts is the Small-Town Lotto (STL) project from the Philippines Charity Sweepstakes Office. The idea was that bettors would turn to the more legal STL instead of jueteng. However, instead of quelling operations, STL provided a legal cover for the numbers game. Jueteng lords would buy STL franchises and, when raided, would present their identifications and licenses to run the franchise. The governments move is to phase out the Small -Town Lotto and replace it with PCSO Loterya ng Bayan (PLB), a project similar to the Small-Town Lotto but with a proposed 100 Million Peso bond to be confiscated if proven if they used the government project as a front for jueteng. In spite of this, regular bribes to the police would ensure the continuation of the operations, bond or no (Cinco; Yamsuan A1). If the government wants to eradicate jueteng, the move should also be to legalize it. This is similar to the pending law on sin tax, where taxes on liquor and cigarettes are increased in order to discourage people from buying them. Chances are, jueteng lords would not want their profit margins to decrease.

Their most logical move is to increase ticket prices. Jueteng is known for allowing bettors to wager small amounts of money. By legalizing the game, the government can dictate (or strongly hint at) the ticket prices. Take away the games affordability, the demand decreases, which will effectively eradicate the game. There will always be a question of morality, and if legalizing the game would encourage Filipinos to wager their money instead of working for it. First of all, if jueteng is legalized, the chances of ticket prices going up are high, thereby discouraging Filipinos from engaging in the game in the first place. A peso or two might not mean so much to some people; coins are easily seen on the street if one looks hard enough. But ten or twenty pesos is a bit harder to come by, and a bit harder to part with. Legalizing jueteng would not promote succumbing to vices. This is similar to gambling in casinos, or the commercial availability of alcohol and cigarettes. Although all are perfectly legal vices, the government discourages them. Casinos cater only to those who have the money to gamble away, and the pending law on sin tax will prevent Filipinos from succumbing to these vices. As stated above, attempts to stop operations have been fruitless, with the jueteng lords constantly dodging and finding loopholes in the law. As long as bettors look to participate in jueteng, the operators will find a way to get to their customers and their own profits beyond the reach of the government. As stated by Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, I think there is no magic (solution) as

far as jueteng is concerned. Ive tried (to end it) a number of times i n Naga City I think what we should have is a systemic solution, and I must say that moves to pave the way for eliminating it permanently have been done in the past (qtd. in Ramos). Legalization of jueteng is as systemic as the government can get. It might not fully guarantee the complete eradication of jueteng, but with the amount of money involved in jueteng, it can ensure that the government, and consequently the country can benefit from the game, and not just the few individuals behind it. You can bet on it.

Works Cited Cinco, Maricar. Jueteng to persist, even with Loterya ng Bayan, if cops allow it to operator. Inquirer News. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 6 Oct. 2012. Diaz, Perry. Stop Jueteng: Mission Impossible? Filipino Journal. Filipino Journal, July-Aug. 2012. Web. 6 Oct. 2012. Jueteng is Embedded in Local Culture. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2012. Mallari, Delfin Jr. et al. Govt told to tap BIR, in war on jueteng. Philippine Daily Inquirer 28 Sept. 2012: A18. Print. Pefianco, Romero. Lottery/jueteng since 1893. The Manila Bulletin Newspaper Online. Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation, 14 July 2012. Web. 6 Oct. 2012. Ramos, Marlon. Robredo: No quick fix to jueteng. Inquirer News. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 15 July 2010. Web. 6 Oct. 2012. What Went Before: Illegal Numbers Game in PH. Philippine Daily Inquirer 15 Sept. 2012: A1. Print. Yamsuan, Cathy. Jueteng take P50M daily, says Lacson. Philippine Daily Inquirer 17 Sept. 2012: A1. Print