MANILA, Philippines --- Long before President Benigno S. Aquino III announced Monday that the Small Town Lottery (STL) will be scrapped for its failure to substitute and stop the outlawed operation of "jueteng," the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) had already intended to replace STL with another game called PCSO Loterya ng Bayan or "PLB."
This was revealed yesterday by PCSO General Manager Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II as he considered how getting rid of STL will displace 95,000 workers.
But opposition Rep. Mitos Magsaysay is not convinced the PLB will eradicate jueteng, saying that there is little difference between the two systems of legal numbers game.
"It's the same dog with different collar. The concept is exactly the same, pinalitan lang ng pangalan, I am not sure it will resolve jueteng," she said.
The STL was supposed to be an experimental numbers games operation aimed at putting an end to jueteng.
But with some of its operators merely acting as jueteng lord dummies, many STL joints started operating as jueteng fronts.
At present there are still 19 STL firms operating in different provinces, with each operator having more or less 5,000 employees.
"That would easily translate to 95,000 people who would be displaced," said Rojas, adding that the PCSO is planning to stop all STL operations by 2013 and introduce PLB.
He said the remaining STL operators still have an active authority to operate, naming the areas where they operate as Bulacan, Tarlac, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, Iloilo City, Negros Oriental (Bacolod City), Olongapo, Zambales, Angeles City, Bataan, Isabela (Santiago City), and Ilocos Norte.
In February 2011, the PCSO announced the drafting of the implementing rules and regulations of the PLB, designed to replace STL, fight illegal numbers game, and increase government revenue.
On July 13, 2011, the PCSO said 230 gaming operators applied to run PLB, each paying P50,000 for processing fee.
"We are very hopeful (the PLB) will be come out very soon," said Rojas.
What is being done, he said, is the finalization or fine-tuning of the PLB's implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to make it more effective in fighting "jueteng" and other illegal numbers games.
He said coordination with Malacañang is continuing to refine PLB. "We are going over the PLB-IRR to make it even better," he said.
When the time to launch the new lottery comes, he said this will be done in areas where there are no STL operations, in case there still some of the former still active.
House leaders threw their all-out support for Aquino's move to pull the plug on STL, branding it as a "bold and decisive action."
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the House Committee on Public Information, took note of the President's anti-jueteng campaign, saying that STL only encouraged illegal numbers game.
"The decision of President Aquino to stop the Small Town Lottery is a bold and decisive action. STL is a mockery because instead of stopping illegal numbers game, particularly jueteng, it turned out to be an effective front of jueteng lords," he said in a text message.
He recalled that when he was still a governor, a group who claimed to be representing a jueteng lord offered him P10 million just to facilitate the approval of its STL application by the provincial board.
"Of course, I rejected the offer. I believe that STL is not an effective tool to stop all illegal numbers game," he said.
Schools In CL
Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, head of the Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng (KBLJ), said they received information that jueteng collectors are now present in at least four public schools in Central Luzon.
"The students are being wooed to bet their little allowance. I find this irritating," he said in a Church-organized forum in Manila.
Cruz said students, who are mostly in High School, could very well afford to place a bet on jueteng since the minimum bet is only between P10 to P20.
Aside from Central Luzon, the prelate said these jueteng collectors also managed to invade one public school in Metro Manila.
"I don't know the name of the school but it is also being frequented by jueteng collectors to get the money of students," said Cruz.
"Is this what they (administration) mean by straight path? I'm confused jueteng is exempted from this straight path?" asked the prelate.
The former head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said so far jueteng operations are doing very well in the country with collections amounting to millions daily.
"It's so hard to give an exact figure because the number of draw per day differs...but our ballpark figure is P45 to P55 million a day," Cruz said. (With reports from Ben R. Rosario, Leslie Ann G. Aquino, and Charissa M. Luci)