By Mario Casayuran
Sen. Panfilo M.Lacson said on Friday that authorities, including the Philippine National Police, are duty-bound to enforce the law against illegal gambling, including the multi-billion a year ‘’jueteng (a numbers game)’’ operations.
Lacson pointed out that Republic Act (RA) 9287 specifically outlaws such illegal activities.
“There is an existing law declaring ‘jueteng,’ among other forms of gambling, as illegal, and it is not exempt from being pursued by law enforcement authorities. It also breeds corruption among law enforcement agencies,” he said. Lacson headed the PNP from 1999 to 2001.
Lacson warned that even pausing anti-jueteng operations could be “risky and addicting” for police officials who may get offers from ‘’jueteng’’ operators.
He earlier revealed that he was offered a multi-million peso a year bribe to close his eyes to ‘’jueteng’’ operations
when he was new at the PNP, then the Laguna provincial PNP director in 1992.
Lacson said President Rodrigo Duterte, who was earlier quoted as saying he might allow ‘’jueteng’’ operations for now, may have meant he wanted to prioritize illegal drugs over illegal gambling, if there is compelling reason.
“Maybe what PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Dutertre) meant was to prioritize illegal drugs over illegal gambling if there is compelling reason to do so. There can be no legal justification not to arrest an offender who is committing a crime in the presence of a law enforcer, be it a drug offender or an illegal gambler,” Lacson said.
Lacson, chairman of the Senate games and amusement committee, also stressed that police personnel are mandated to enforce the law, and can only follow legal orders.
Because of this, he said police personnel “should be ready for the consequences if they follow illegal orders from anybody, not from their superiors, not from their commander-in-chief.”
Following illegal orders from their superiors, including their commander-in-chief, “is not a valid legal defense in court,” Lacson added.
Lacson had said he had consistently refused offers of bribe money from gambling operators, from the time he served as provincial director of the Laguna provincial police in 1992.
He recalled that on the eve of his assumption of command, he received offers from operators of P1.2 million a month, in exchange for allowing ‘’jueteng’’ to operate. Lacson firmly declined the offer.
Lacson would maintain this no-take stance against illegal gambling up to the time he served as PNP chief.
“Human experience would tell us how petty corruption morphs into something big, then bigger and bigger, until a person mostly clothed with official authority doesn’t know anymore how and when to stop,’’ he said.
‘’Worse, from monthly takes courtesy of gambling operators, he shifts to a much bigger protection money from smugglers, drug lords, and the like. And before anybody realizes it, the whole country is faced with serious national security and economic problems,” he added.