PNP dared: Stop ‘jueteng’ to regain public trust
SANTIAGO CITY–If the Philippine National Police were serious in instituting reforms in the organization to bring back the trust of the public, it should start by eliminating illegal gambling.
Officials and residents here gave this challenge to the PNP leadership in reaction to pronouncements from PNP Chief Dir. Gen. Jesus Verzosa that his administration will try to win back the trust of the public, following the latest scandal to hit the police organization.
Gov. Grace Padaca said Verzosa’s statement comes as a positive sign, especially in times that people have grown wary about the sincerity of the PNP to live up to its mandate as the country’s primary law enforcement agency.
“Pity me, I always hold on to even the bleakest ray of hope every time a new PNP chief says something about reforms, especially on ‘jueteng‘. Even if I am always frustrated anyway, what else can I do but hope that they be different from all who came before them and all who are with them in the hierarchy?” she said.
“Jueteng“, an illegal numbers game, has continued to proliferate in many parts of Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and this city, even after Verzosa assumed as PNP chief.
During the Senate investigation of the so-called “Euro generals” controversy on Saturday, he assured lawmakers that the PNP leadership was doing its best to bring back the trust of the public to the police.
But residents expressed doubt over Verzosa’s statement, citing public perception that unabated “jueteng” activities were being tolerated by police officials in exchange for large amounts of bribe money.
“Unahin na muna sana ng PNP ang jueteng. Mahihirapan sila na ipatupad ang batas at hulihin ang mga lumalabag kasi alam nila na isusumbat lang sa kanila ‘yung di nila paghuli sa mga gambling lord (The PNP should start by stopping ‘jueteng‘. They will have difficulty enforcing the law and arrest violators because they are aware that they will be confronted with the issue of their inability to go after gambling lords,” local businessman Arnold Damian, 35, said in Filipino.
Siegfried Balatan, president of Mangipateg, the Santiago City-based movement for good governance and public accountability, said they were willing to give Verzosa a chance to make good his words.
“If it was not (Verzosa) speaking, I will immediately throw those statements (about PNP reforms) straight to the wide-open trash bin. But knowing him, I would give him the benefit of the doubt,” he said, adding that his group plans to meet with the PNP chief.
Padaca said she is awaiting “how things will work out” as bet collection activities stopped in a number of Isabela towns last week following attempts to start operations of the Small Town Lottery.
In instituting the much-needed reforms, Verzosa can start by making sure that the PNP will have sufficient funding that it will leave no room for “jueteng” money to penetrate the organization, the governor said.
“It seems to me the PNP budget is designed to be so lacking that PNP regional directors and up to the highest PNP generals may have an excuse or justification to receive money from ‘jueteng’ lords for office supplies, fuel needs, etc.,” she said.
Verzosa should also show sincerity in supporting local officials who are “desperately looking for real PNP action cooperation in the fight against ‘jueteng’,” she added.
Likewise, Gov. Dakila Carlo Cua of Quirino expressed optimism over Verzosa’s statement.
“I do hope that with the leadership of the (PNP) chief, we will be able to eradicate illegal gambling in the region,” he said.
He said efforts to stamp out illegal gambling must be jointly carried out by local officials, the PNP, the religious sector, and the media, citing the anti-jueteng council formed in Quirino.
Quoting a report from Senior Supt. Romualdo Zingapan, Quirino police director, Cua denied that the reported bet collection activities in his province were being run by a “jueteng” syndicate.
“He told me that these were ‘guerilla’ (activities) spilling over from neighboring city and towns,” Cua said, referring to “jueteng” operations in Santiago City and Cordon and San Agustin towns in Isabela.