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