February 1, 2023

Way back 1997 during the 10th Congress, when I was a member of the Committee on Public Order and Security at the Lower House, I authored a resolution together with Reps. Ronald Cosalan of Benguet; Victor Dominguez of Mountain Province; and Elias Bulut, Sr. of Apayao, calling for an inquiry on the resurgence of illegal gambling in northern Luzon.
If memory serves me right, this was triggered either by the pastoral letter of the bi-shops denouncing illegal gambling after they realized how widespread and insidious gambling was in the northern region.
The late Bishop Oscar Cruz was active in this front especially when our Senate counterpart conducted its own inquiry on the matter. Sandra Cam, now under custody for murder and the late Boy Mayor, gunned down somewhere were the whistleblowers and had juicy stories about the operations here.
If not the pastoral letter, the trigger was the explosion that rocked the city when Baguio Reporter’s hard hitting editor Eliral “Pedped” Refuerzo asked the then chief of police who has gone from earth since, “Is the mayor on the take” and his ‘infamous’ answer,“Yun lang naman nakatataas sa akin ang nakikinabang. Ang sa akin ay latak-latak lang ang natatangap ko,” or words to the effect.
Whew! Very brave words then but may be true even now?
Our resolution and the subsequent public hearings started the long process of crafting a new law amending the provisions of Presidential Decree 1602.
The 12th Congress came up with RA 9287 on April 2, 2004 basically increasing the penalties for illegal numbers games as the State says illegal numbers games has become an influential factor in an individual’s disregard for the value of dignified work, perseverance, and thrift since instant monetary gains from it are being equated to success, thereby becoming a widespread social menace and a source of corruption.
The new law punishes the bettors, the personnel or staff, persons who allows his vehicle, house, building or land to be used in the operation, collector or agent, coordinator, controller or supervisor, maintainer, manager or operator; and financier or capitalist. Twenty years for the protector or coddler.
Mere possession of any gambling paraphernalia and other materials used in the illegal numbers game operation shall be deemed prima facie evidence of gambling and a fine ranging from P3 million to P5M and perpetual absolute disqualification from public office .
In addition to the penalty provided the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office shall be imposed upon any local government official who, having knowledge of the existence of the operation of any illegal numbers game in his/her jurisdiction, fails to abate or to take action, or tolerates and in case of failure to apprehend perpetrators of any illegal numbers game, any law enforcer shall suffer an administrative penalty of suspension or dismissal, as the case may be, to be imposed by the appropriate authority.
There is also an informer’s reward to a person who, having knowledge or information of any offense which may lead to the arrest and final conviction of the offender, may be rewarded a certain percentage of the cash money or articles of value confiscated or forfeited in favor of the government.
The recommended bail for each offender would be P80,000 more or less.
On weekend, police and anti-narcotics operatives raided a gambling joint along Legarda Road in Baguio and netted 133 persons as per media reports. Those arrested were either gamblers or operators and a police officer. The suspects were hauled to Camp Dangwa in La Trinidad, Benguet instead of Baguio which had jurisdiction over the crime.
Why it took an outside unit to conduct the operation or assuming it was coordinated with the local unit remains unanswered although the public has known and snickered mostly of the answers ever since.
Likewise, the drop ball stations were spared right across the Rizal Park or the one’s near the police general headquarters. All out or selective war?
Pustahan tayo, Pontious pilates would wash their hands and declare to high heavens about a renewed drive against illegal gambling.
As the Bishops sat, the exhortation of St. Paul comes to our mind: “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them.” (Eph. 5:11). Sigh.