IT is almost two years since cases were filed and continue to be filed against agents of a government electrification office who committed illegal acts against the Benguet Electric Cooperative management, workers and its member-consumer-owners, one of which was the appointment of an outsider as general manager of the electric cooperative.
With the manner the cases are moving, I doubt if we will see an end to the conflict in two years or more. This, despite the admittance by government officials in recent senate hearings that they have already discarded the memorandum order which was the basis for appointing the outsider to a position that was not even vacant.
That is how government officials with hidden interests operate. They change the rules in the middle of a game when the score is not in their favor. In the meantime, please do not get fooled like then President Duterte who was misled by his energy and electrification officials.
In the face of the illegal moves by outside elements who want to take over the management of Beneco by hook or by crook, our cooperative has a genuine, able, and competent manager in the person of Engr. Melchor Licoben. The other one is the opposite.
Government agencies, with impunity, continue to change game rules to suit their whims. Take the case of the guidelines in the selection of the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative IPMR who are supposed to sit in legislative bodies of LGUs and government corporations.
In a simple analogy, a certain team in a basketball game already won, was waiting for the final tally, and was about to receive its trophy when suddenly the rules are changed which disqualifies it as the winning team.
While many cases, including the IPMR issue in Baguio which was still being heard in court, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples changed the rules. The act is plain and simple disrespect to the court.
But that is how some government agents with hidden interests play the game. They welcome other personalities even while they know that cases are being heard in court to the extent that they violate rules just to get their wishes.
Gambling. In the past weeks, it was very noticeable in the police journals submitted to media outfits for the consumption of the public that the police had been apprehending persons involved in gambling.
The arrests that happened in all Cordillera provinces on varied schedules were obviously executed following orders from upstairs. But the activities where arrests were done only involved small-time friendly games of tong-its, pusoy and Lucky Nine, card games that I play with my family in the house.
As written in the police reports, the pieces of evidence that were seized were a deck of playing cards and a few hundred pesos. This is proof that the activities, although illegal, were not big-scale gambling like the controversial Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations and jueteng.
Talking about jueteng, its operation has come back full blast and is now part of the “new normal” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Baguio and the 13 towns of Benguet, jueteng operations are very much alive.
This is one illegal tax-free gambling activity that has been rousing the country’s underground economy but does not set off the distress alarm of the authorities. They prefer not to ring the alarm bells because they are content with the conditions set.
Although every once in a while, it gets highlighted in congress especially because jueteng operates in the guise of STL games (small town lottery), contrary to the original concept to stamp it out. Gambling lords used STL as a front for jueteng as the two games have similar mechanics.
Jueteng is illegal but obviously, it is not being stopped. One way of halting the operation of jueteng disguised as STL is for LGU officials to stop issuing business permits to the latter. STL is authorized, jueteng is not.
In actual operations, STL stations do not use terminal machines to receive bets and issue receipts that are forwarded to a central database for sales reporting. Instead, the STL operators allowed the use of papelitos by bet collectors wearing green vests to make them look as legal. And they carry STL employee identification cards.
In this case, the operators do not report their correct collections, thus cheating the government of revenues. No one, except the STL operators, knows how much is collected. Maybe Camp Crame bosses, the PDs, CoPs and CIDG officials should work harder to find out, instead of arresting small-time pusoy and tong-its gamblers.
In one senate probe on jueteng in the past, Senator Ping Lacson confirmed that STL operations in a Southern Luzon province has a gross collection of P5 million daily, but these are not properly remitted. I wonder how much is collected in Baguio, Benguet or Cordillera.
In the same fora, the senators learned from a gambling consultant that STL operations could gross as high as PhP200 M daily or P60 billion per month nationwide and could even increase if government took over from the accredited STL agents.
With that admittance comes an allegation that jueteng has bigger collections than STL operations, and the government is being cheated of an estimated P50 billion a year in its STL operations.
By the way, a congressional inquiry sometime in 1990 revealed that franchises for STL had been awarded to the same people behind jueteng. Until now, gambling lords are using STL as front for their jueteng operations but they are not being stopped. Unfortunately, government agents prefer that deal.