ROUGH CUTS| What a way to hide illegal gambling!

THE DAVAO City Police Office (DCPO) has been reported as saying that gambling incidents in Davao City has gone down by as much as 90 percent.

Reading or hearing the report is perhaps the best news that is given some prominence by the local media. For who would consider such report as bad when it means a huge success in the campaign against illegal gambling in the city?

But while we believe that it is one piece of welcome news it does not mean that we agree fully as to the truth that it is indeed happening in the city.

Do we have to affirm the credibility of the report on the basis of observations made by the police? Or should we fall prey to the dramatics of certain barangay officials who might have been commissioned to conduct their own survey of the operation of illegal gambling and report their findings to the police?

Anyhow, let’s give the police the benefit of doubt that indeed there is such a 90 percent reduction of gambling incidents in the city.

However, we have observed lately that there is some kind of an “invasion” in every barangay that we have gone to. The “invaders” are the stalls of Small Town Lottery (STL) which is banded around as the “giant slayer” of the illegal numbers game of Last 2, Loteng, Jueteng, and what your mind can ever think of any other numbers derived gambling.

We can now see these yellow-painted stalls in almost every conspicuous and strategic nooks and crannies of the barangays marked with the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) logo. From these stalls STL aficionados can put their bets while hoping that they can have a chance to transform their dreams to reality.

But wait, who are the franchisees of the STL operations in Davao City? Are they the groups that retired Police Officer 3 Arthur Lascanas who is now hiding abroad, claimed to have helped wiggle their way to the PCSO using his self-proclaimed “connection” to the President? These stalls just popped out from nowhere like mushrooms.

Of course that is not the catch here. The real issue that needs to be connected to the question who the franchisees of the Davao STL operations are, is the information we got from at least three well known illegal numbers game Last 2 coordinators in a particular barangay. The information given us is that certain STL outlet is also where Last 2 bets are being remitted.

If we have to analyze this disclosure it could only mean one thing. The operators running the STL booking stations are also the same persons or groups behind the Last 2 illegal numbers game. This time however, they are able to cover their illegal gambling activities with the legal one – the STL.

Again, from our sources the names given us as the ones behind the operations of the STL in the Davao Region, and possibly in the whole of Mindanao are those of persons known to have claimed good “connections” with the powers that be.

On the other hand, we have figured out that the structure of this gambling industry is seemingly crafted to target the highly vulnerable sector of the economically marginalized among the Filipinos. It is pretty much similar to that of the illegal drugs syndicates. It is even possible that they are the same people lording it over in these two anti-social industries.

Frankly, we cannot imagine where this anti-illegal gambling campaign would bring the country into. The more the government supposedly tightens the nozzle on illegal gambling the more the gambling lords find ways to play around with the restrictions.

And the saddest thing of this all is that the so-called legal gambling couched in the caring arms of one social development agency of government, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) appears to have succeeded in getting the imprimatur for gambling to reach even the farthest villages in the country.

So, if the proliferation of illegal drugs is feared to destroy the future of this nation’s youth, what could both legal and illegal gambling merged in one massive operation possibly do to the present and future Philippine society?

Ironically, it is this wrong strategy of government in dealing with the proliferation of vices like gambling and in the use of prohibited illegal drugs that is pushing Philippine society much deeper into the muck.

So, what 90 percent reduction in illegal gambling operation are the police talking about? Perhaps it is time to re-assess the effectiveness of this campaign before some government officials end up the national laughing stock.

Or perhaps, better still, to evaluate the moral capacity of the implementers of the anti-illegal gambling campaign.

Posted in Opinion