Are we really getting the whole truth in the jueteng exposé?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-09-26
There are good news and bad news that came with retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz when he revived his campaign against jueteng, the illegal numbers game.

The good news came in the form of new information and dimensions to the illegal numbers game which many Filipinos are not aware of. The good retired Archbishop confirmed that the illegal numbers game can only thrive with the connivance of the police boss in the area and the local government executive.

A related segment by Jing Castaneda of ABS-CBN revealed that cheating in jueteng is rampant. Jing’s report even demonstrated how the cheating is being done. The cheating is being conducted in order to ensure that the operator is not subjected to big payoffs. The numbers which carry the lesser bets are rigged to win. Hopefully, this revelation will enlighten Filipinos that there is neither fairness nor hope in jueteng.

It was also good that names of the alleged big illegal numbers game operators were mentioned during the Senate Hearing and Senator Miriam Santiago’s privilege speech. Many of the alleged operators that were named did not surprise those in the know as they have long been the favorite usual suspects.

There is more to the illegal numbers game than most Filipinos are aware of. Knowledgeable political watchers have been warning us since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was first linked to alleged Pampanga jueteng operator Bong Pineda in the mid-1990s that jueteng lords are developing as the Philippine counterparts of Mafia Dons in the US who are also running the illegal numbers game there. We were warned that the jueteng lords will be able to influence elections in the country because of the money that they can give to support their protectors.

Already a Philippine president was ousted because of jueteng links — convicted President Joseph Estrada. Already, we wonder how come many police and military officers — favorite usual suspects of being in the jueteng payoffs — have managed to finance election victories when everybody knows that a policeman’s salary and that of an army general cannot afford to finance our expensive election campaigns.

The downside of the current discussions on the illegal numbers game is that so far we have not been presented with anything which can count as hard evidence in a court of law. Thus far, all that we’ve heard are allegations — hearsay for the most part, to be more precise. Admittedly, gathering hard evidence will be difficult if the policemen are receiving jueteng payoffs. This sad reality is what convinces many folks that the only way to tackle the problem is by legalizing it.

The proponents of the legalization of jueteng have a good point when they say that legalized jueteng will allow the government to regulate the operation and earn the revenues from the illegal numbers game. This ensures that the people are not victimized by cheating as well as contributes revenues to the government which it needs very badly. Legalizing jueteng also protects our democracy from the influence of unscrupulous operators.

What is bothersome in the current discussions on the illegal numbers game is that reputations have been smeared without any solid evidence to back up the allegations. It is one of those oddities when the attempt to root out something illegal becomes an illegal act itself.

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz certainly enjoys the public trust and the benefit of the doubt. He does not show any personal benefit to be derived from undertaking these exposes on the illegal numbers game. On the contrary, his crusade creates big risks on his life. People in our country can get killed for lesser reasons.

However, this does not mean that retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz is infallible. He was humble enough on ANC Headstart to admit that he could be wrong or have been misled by his informants and so he offered his sincere apologies to DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) Undersecretary (Usec) Rico E. Puno for having linked the Usec to jueteng payoffs.

Usec Rico E. Puno did not help his cause with the way he answered the questions of the Senators during the Blue Ribbon Committee Hearing. His evasive manner would certainly add to molding public perception against him. However, perception does not always equate to truth as the negative perception may be rooted to non-verbal aspects of communications or plain incompetence.

The media feeding frenzy in this town, which is even easier to incite than a trail of blood would stir a pack of hungry bull sharks, has had a long track record of either missing cleverly concealed facts or being motivated to narrate fiction. Nothing victimizes truth in media better than incompetent or corrupt journalists. If jueteng lords can buy cops and politicians, they can also buy corrupt journalists. The jueteng lords can also hire the best con game operators that their filthy lucre can buy to mislead incompetent journalists.

It is not our concern to try to help Usec Rico E. Puno clear his name and save his job. That is an undertaking that he owes himself. What should be of utmost concern to us is this factor which has not yet come to fore in any of the current discussions — what if retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz is a victim of an elaborate operation to feed him false information designed to protect and promote the interests of certain jueteng lords and their real protectors?

Anybody can become a victim of such elaborate operations especially those which are undertaken by professional political operators with training from the CIA. Put yourself in the place of retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz and how you will tend to think if five persons from different groups and backgrounds come to you and tell you the same tale. Would you not be inclined to think that what you were told is the truth?

By all means let us all get to the bottom of the truth about jueteng and get rid of this menace once and for all. However, we should ensure that in every step of the process, we are guided by the truth and the facts.

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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