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Jueteng

Jueteng

Ronald Roy

Should the kitchen knife be banned? Obviously not, otherwise we would be a society of people reeling sick from ill-cooked meals. And it should not even matter if the instrument has featured in numerous homicides. So, what can be done to at least reduce the loss of innocent lives? Catch the culprits and send them to jail, simple.

Not only would the knife-wielding malefactors be held accountable, but others as well; like anyone who may have purposely or carelessly left a carver within the reach of a child. The point is: it is not the knife per se that is condemnable, but the person who mishandles or abuses it. On this proposition is premised the ensuing discussion on the illegal numbers game called jueteng.

Jueteng is back in the news, reportedly at a much worse state than ever. It has long been assailed as a criminal enterprise so immoral and widespread that only political will can stamp it out of our lives. In partially agreeing, I would like to propose a tactical approach to the problem by acknowledging the numbers game as an alarmingly extensive social cancer. For it is only in this light that we can begin to recognize the imperative for a political resolve to eradicate it.

Take it from former President Joseph Estrada, whose gray-haired wisdom gives probably the most cogent suggestion on the matter: Legalize jueteng. “Think about it,” he once told me. To this day, President Estrada staunchly advocates its legalization.

And I’m pretty sure his advocacy is not founded on the thesis that jueteng, legalized or not, is pernicious to moral values like most prelates hold. At the very least, he most likely regards legalized jueteng as a lesser evil compared to its un-legalized form.

So, why not legalize it in order to extirpate the vice? Why not, if policemen and their superiors shall once more ennoble themselves with the half-forgotten vow of fealty to their calling? Why not, if local government and administration officials will be perceived to be so clean they need not be made to undergo lifestyle checks? Why not, if some elective officials will stop the depraved practice of yielding to jueteng operators’ offers to beef up their campaign coffers?

Why not, if the racket can be so regulated as to divert cash flows from private pockets to the public kitties of charity? Why not, because jueteng, legalized or not, is classified as gambling and as such is offensive to God? But didn’t the late Jaime Sin, the red-hat instigator of Edsa 1, once say he would not hesitate to receive from the Devil anything he could give the poor?

Why not, if the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Philippine Amusement and Games Corporation, (clearly a corporate euphemism for its unlawful connotation) are openly regarded as respectable institutions? Ahh, but we all know why resistance to jueteng’s legalization has remained formidable since time immemorial: The Devil has become the gambling lord’s own paymaster on whose payroll is a list of government officials who give them not only protection but also business opportunities through the influence of their offices.

Before last Tuesday’s Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, it used to hit you like a heavyweight’s punch to the midriff on realizing that the state’s police power of restriction over the numbers game may simply take a back seat in the legislative agenda. And each time you rose to your feet before the count of ten, you got to think it might not be worth continuing the fight. Would solons on the take, indeed, legislate against their lucrative clandestine engagements?! Hopefully not anymore.

Now resuscitated is Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s senate Bill 1183 or the Whistle-blower’s Protection Act (WPA) of the 13th Congress which the lady legislator has re-filed in response to the recent exposes made by retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz.

The re-filed bill is designed to give whistle-blowers ample protection from the very people their testimonies would implicate. A complementary effort is being exerted by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, Chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, who hopes to strengthen the Small Town Lottery in a strategy to root our jueteng. Only an optimist will say these two valorous senators and other anti-jueteng crusaders will succeed. But I am a realist, not an optimist.

Perhaps it is because jueteng has been proliferating for such a long time, and decadence has so taken root especially over the past few years, that even Superman would be impotent in dealing with satanic forces. But, who knows? Perhaps it was by heaven’s grace that a mediocre person became our president to wipe out those fiends still lurking around.

(arnydolor@yahoo.com; Tel # 7106701, Cel # 09186449517)

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