Wake Up, Philippines!

Philippines: a jueting Republic soon

Posted in DILG, Election, Gambling, Governance, PNP by Erineus on February 25, 2009

By Harvey S. Keh

LAST week, Pampanga Governor Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio again made the headlines and even the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) when he broke the news that the reason why he wants his Police Provincial Director relieved from his position is due to the latter’s refusal to cooperate with him in his fight against illegal gambling particularly jueteng in his province.

What even made the news even more alarming was the fact that there are allegations that it was First Son and Pampanga Congressman Mikey Arroyo who was exerting pressure on the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to ensure that the demands of Gov. Panlilio will not be given. If we will recall, in the last 2007 elections, one of Gov. Panlilio’s main opponents was Lilia Pineda who was then a Provincial Board Member and wife of alleged jueteng lord, Bong Pineda.

We all know that despite meager resources and limited amount of time to prepare, Gov. Panlilio through the support of the civil society and church groups was able to win and one of main thrust of his administration was to put an end to jueteng in Pampanga thus, ridding his province of the label, “the Vatican of Jueteng in the Philippines”. Barely a year in office, Gov. Panlilio filed a plunder case against Bong Pineda for his alleged involvement in jueteng operations all over the country.

I was in Pampanga over the weekend and I was listening to a local radio station wherein two radio commentators were saying that instead of focusing on the eradication of jueteng, Gov. Panlilio should just let the issue go and focus his efforts elsewhere.

I was disturbed by those comments since if we recall, wasn’t jueteng one of the major reasons why many of us went to the streets leading to the ouster of President Joseph Estrada? How many families have been destroyed by this prevailing addiction to illegal gambling?

It is a grim reality that many politicians in our country from the local government units up to our national government continue to allow jueteng operations to run since they also benefit from it. The money that is earned by taking advantage of the hopelessness of the poor is then used to buy votes during elections or even influence the results thereby perpetuating themselves in power.

For a country that is run by a few selfish interests while millions continue to live with less than 100 pesos a day, the upcoming 2010 National Elections again present an opportunity for us to elect the right leaders for our country.

Yet, this may only remain an elusive dream if we continue to allow jueteng lords to influence the results of the elections thus, making our political leaders beholden to them. Gov. Panlilio is right in fighting jueteng because by doing so, he is not only fighting one of the causes of poverty in our country but he is also fighting to preserve the integrity of one of the most important rights that we have in a democracy, our right to freely choose effective and ethical leaders for our country.

However, we all have to realize that this fight against jueteng will not be won overnight given that this is also a source of livelihood for many Filipinos. The challenge for Gov. Panlilio is to ensure that he is able to stimulate enough economic activity and employment in his province so that Kapampangans will have opportunities to earn a decent living and they will no longer have to pin their hopes for a better life on this gamble of numbers.

The experience of other countries like Mexico and Colombia wherein money from illegal drugs has been used to elect the highest officials in their respective countries is something that we can all learn from. Drug lords continue to reign in these countries and it won’t be long that jueteng lords will also be our country’s rulers if we don’t do anything about it now. Do we want our country to be known not only as the Sick Man of Asia but also as the Jueteng Republic of Asia? I certainly hope not.

Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government. Comments are welcome at harveykeh@gmail.com


Easy Money

Posted in Crime, Gambling, Graft and Corruption, Poverty by Erineus on February 3, 2009

By Michael Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 11:38:00 01/15/2009

Filed Under: Graft & Corruption, Crime, Poverty, Gaming & Lotteries, Investments

DRIVE around the streets of the Metro and once you see a line, you immediately know it’s people queuing for lotto tickets. And with some 2,000 said to have joined the Lotto Millionaires Club, with winnings ranging from P3 million to P249 million, the number of hopeful lotto buyers will continue to grow.

Do the thriving lotto sales reflect a Filipino tendency to look for an easy way to wealth? Only partially, and I’d say this happens all over the world. People do have a weakness for lotteries, and governments have cashed in, setting up sweepstakes and lottos, with the proceeds purportedly going to charity to calm down people who see this as a form of gambling.

Dreams of instant wealth are shared across cultures, hich is why, besides the lotteries, we have all kinds of swindlers and scam artists offering untold riches from magic boxes (“Put money in this box and I will multiply it for you.”) to pyramid schemes. What does vary is the intensity of these aspirations, and the kind of scams peddled.

In the Philippines, we have a tendency to think of the poor as the most gullible, and attribute this to indolence. But look hard enough and you’ll realize that there really isn’t that much for con artists to take from the poor in the first place. Smart swindlers target the gullible among the middle and upper classes.

If Filipinos often talk about hopes for easy money and instant wealth, it’s because people do have to work so hard in the Philippines, and get so very little. Yet Filipinos also see others who get rich quickly with relatively little effort, so they begin to ask, “Why can’t I do that too?”

Foremost reason for the instant wealth, of course, is corruption. Ask young men from lower or even middle-class families what their dream job is, and they’d most likely answer, “police” or “customs inspector.” Probe a bit more and they will be quite candid in saying “that’s where the easy money is.”

Talk with business people handling government contracts and you’ll encounter two extremes. The honest ones will be talking about how exasperating it can be to chase after government payments, with very small profit margins. Talk with the “smart” ones and they’ll tell you all it takes is one major contract to make money enough to last you a lifetime, as long as you play the game right with commissions—your own as well as the host politicians. And these commissions—as we have been seeing in recent exposés in the Senate—make the lotto multi-million peso winnings look like loose change.

Easy money? Only for those on top of these syndicates. Profits trickle down. Just look at the well-documented jueteng (numbers game) industry showing how huge election spending can be funded by jueteng, while the kubrador or small collectors live in poverty.

Let’s move out of the area of graft and corruption and look at the private sector where get-rich activities thrive as well, often legally. The other day I was driving in one of the side streets of Quezon Boulevard and saw a large sign in front of one of the clubs, offering “up to P100,000 a month” to “attractive ladies.” Some overseas recruitment agencies also lure applicants with these amazing salary offers.

But most promises of instant money involve marketing. There are so many pyramid marketing schemes offering people a chance to earn lots of money selling everything from cosmetics to water purifiers. Initially, the schemes work because you’re able to sell to relatives, friends and neighbors, until you realize there’s a limit to the people in your network. The quick profits evaporate, eventually eating into the capital and people end up the poorer for it, sometimes with over-priced merchandise no one wants to buy.

The last five years or so have also featured another kind of easy money made available to the upper class: giant financial investment schemes in stocks and government bonds, brokered by banks. People were raking in up to 60 percent of their investment within a year, not doing anything except investing in the funds. Word spread and even little old grandmothers eventually began to play the game.

There were some warning signs about two or three years ago when investments began to falter, but the markets recovered… until this year. It turns out now that there was much speculation going on, foreign investors playing with our stock markets and our financial institutions, then withdrawing when the going got bad. The global financial crisis, we know now, came about in part because of all this speculation.

If anything good is going to come out of this global crisis, it might be a sobering of our aspirations, and a return to the old adage about easy money being suspicious money. Radical changes are going to come around the next year, as governments try to clean up capitalism. Meanwhile, lotto sales will remain brisk, maybe even picking up, with buyers taking things philosophically. Because in a way, they shrug, you always win. If you lose, well, the loss can still be seen as a donation to charity.

Super lotto pot to reach P100 million

Posted in Gambling, News Feature by Erineus on February 3, 2009
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MANILA, Philippines — For the first time this year, the jackpot prize for the 6/49 Super Lotto online lottery of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) is expected to breach the P100-million mark in today’s draw after nobody won the P92-million jackpot last Sunday, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) spokesman Larry Cedro said.

“We are expecting the prize to reach P100 million for Tuesday’s draw,” Cedro said yesterday.

Last year, the jackpot prize breached the P100-million mark four times.

The Super Lotto online lottery is now being played three times a week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

The PCSO, meanwhile, moved the Power Lotto games to Saturdays to accommodate wealthy bettors.

“The rich lotto players will now have time to play Power Lotto, the most exciting game,” Cedro said.

The Power Lotto, which targets rich bettors, has an initial jackpot prize of P50 million.

For a minimum bet of P50, the player gets to pick a five-digit combination from the numbers 1 to 55 plus a “power number” from the numbers 1 to 10.

However, Cedro said the main focus of the PCSO is to give the regular lotto players more time to play the Super Lotto, which costs only P20 per six-digit combination from the numbers 1 to 49.

Cedro also shared that even if the PCSO has increased the prize of lotto tickets to P20, sales still improved, resulting in the rapid increase of jackpot prizes to reach P100million in just a few weeks.

By Perseus Echeminada