Changing complexion

A very popular product these days is glutathione, which supposedly helps individuals with dark complexion turn lighter. In the province of Iloilo, it’s not this product that is about to change its complexion. It’s a game called jueteng in the guise of small town lottery. And the initiative to change the complexion of Iloilo province is coming directly from the Iloilo capitol.

For nine years, the previous administration under Governor Niel Tupas Sr. blocked the entry of jueteng into the province despite the many tempting offers. Just before the 2004 local elections, a group claiming to represent Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson approached him to secure his approval for the illegal numbers game to operate in the province. In exchange, the group promised a monthly share of P1 million, “just for a start”, and this amount could go higher should the operation reap bigger profits. Governor Tupas asked his guests to leave his house at once, never to ever come back.

Governor Tupas was passionate about his campaign to stop all illegal activities in the province, and illegal gambling was on top of his list. When the PCSO granted a franchise for a small town lottery (STL) company to set up shop in Iloilo City, he was again approached for his consent to allow its operations to extend to the province.  STL offered a fixed share of its earnings to the province of Iloilo to help the LGU look after its indigents. It was all legal. But then again, Governor Tupas was uncompromising about his stand against illegal gambling. He said “no”.

This was the reason Iloilo became known as a “jueteng-free” province during the years Governor Tupas ran the province. He was one of a handful governors given an award by the Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng headed by the anti-jueteng crusader, then Lingayen archbishop Oscar Cruz. Governor Tupas is a believer that gambling is bad for the people, and he stuck to this position until his third term ended on June 30, 2010.

But that is about to end. A few days after Governor Tupas left the capitol, two or three illegal gambling operators set up shop in Pototan, Iloilo, known to be the bailiwick of the new governor. The message was instantly clear. These jueteng (known in Iloilo as “daily double”) had the blessings of the capitol. Who would dare operate the illegal numbers game from Pototan if he didn’t have approval from the governor? And right in his own backyard?

This was followed by negotiations to allow a new company to operate STL in the province. Dr. Raul Banias, the provincial administrator, formed a partnership with Jose Pidal (a.k.a. Rep. Iggy Arroyo) and jueteng lord Eddie Gonzales to operate this business, which will be a front for jueteng, in the province. During an informal meeting with municipal mayors last July, Governor Art Defensor Sr. began soliciting the support of local chief executives and board members.

The move is now being readied for the final approval in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, but kinks have emerged when municipal mayors learned that the business would be monopolized by the Pidal-Gonzales-Banias combine.  The mayors had the impression there would be a “spirit of free enterprise” in the whole gambling business, in which they will be given a free hand to choose what company to operate in their jurisdictions. Defensor is caught in a bind, because he had already committed the business to Pidal and Gonzales through Banias.

Defensor, however, is confident the move to bring jueteng into the province will push through. He considers the kinks that slowed down the effort as minor irritants. He is determined to change the complexion of Iloilo province from “jueteng-free” to “jueteng country.”

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

One Response to Changing complexion

  1. Just an hour after I posted this article, I heard over Bombo Radyo that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has already scheduled public hearings on the application of an STL operator to obtain a franchise for the province of Iloilo. These guys really move fast. They don’t want to waste a second.


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