Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I have the honor to report on the floor Senate Bill 909, authored by Hon. Sherwin Gatchalian and co-authored by the Hon. Joel Villanueva, entitled An Act Increasing the Penalties for Other Illegal Gambling Activities, amending for the Purpose RA 9287 entitled An Act Increasing the Penalties for Illegal Numbers Games, amending certain provisions of PD 1602 and for Other Purposes as embodied in Committee Report 77.
[Download: Committee Report 77 on Senate Bill 909]
Mr. President, let me tell you a true story. In early 1992, a young police superintendent fresh from his 28-month stint as commander of the Cebu PC Metrodiscom in Central Visayas, having been absorbed into the newly constituted Philippine National Police by virtue of RA 6975 enacted in 1991, received his marching order from Camp Crame to report as the new provincial director of the Laguna Provincial Police Office in the Southern Tagalog region.
On the eve of his assumption of command, he heard loud knocks at the door of his house at around 10 o’clock in the evening. It was his elder brother, who was then a bank branch manager somewhere in Paranaque City of the now defunct Interbank. He said he was told by one of his bank’s valued clients that his younger brother was to assume command in Laguna province.
With much excitement, he lost no time in saying “Tol, may kausap akong kliyente namin sa bangko. Nalaman niya na ikaw ang ma-assign na bagong hepe ng pulis sa Laguna. May offer siyang P1.2M kada buwan. Wala kang dapat gawin, basta huwag mo lamang pakikialaman ang operation ng jueteng sa probinsya.” He went further by suggesting that he was told to open a numbered account in his branch. A monthly deposit of P1.2 million would be credited without fail. Nobody would know, he assured. Just like that. Look the other way, life would be easy and comfortable for the police superintendent probably for a long, long time, enjoying the benefit of what could be his lifetime savings.
In the story, the younger brother firmly declined the offer, but not without admonishing his kuya for his naivete and not realizing what he just said to his younger sibling. A month later, the P1.2M offer would become P1.8M after the new police director went hammer and tongs raiding and running after the jueteng operations with such tenacity nobody could imagine.
I am sure Mr. President, even as I speak and as you listen, there are many PNP officers, superintendents or even those of higher ranks who are going through what that police provincial director in my story had experienced. Maybe some likewise resisted the temptation. Others have probably caved in and accepted such lucrative offer. For the latter, the huge amount of money in exchange for so little or no effort is indeed tempting. It is also risky yet addicting once it pays out. For once some people in authority and position of power have taste the underground perks, they will always look for more. And there lies the risk of danger.
Mr. President, may matandang kasabihan, ‘Nabasa na rin lang, naligo na nang tuluyan.’ 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. 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.
Mr. President, from my previous statement, allow me to highlight the words tempting, risky and addicting. These words form part of the formula for corruption. Moreover, these exact words also fit perfectly to another menace in our society: illegal gambling. Both corruption and illegal gambling are prejudicial to society and destructive of good governance as they feed on man’s greed and craving for earthly possessions.
At present, illegal gambling has remained a multibillion-peso underground industry, with patrons coming from all walks of life, cutting across sectors and social status. This is attributable to the fact that it comes in so many forms to cater to one’s preference and budget.
Mr. President, in 2004, during my first term as senator of the Republic, I authored RA 9287, that increased the penalties for illegal numbers games. 13 years later, please allow me to recognize the fact that the same needs to be updated. It is my privilege and honor, as chairman of your Committee on Games and Amusement, to be standing here to present amendments to a law I originally authored when I was a neophyte senator.
Moreover, allow me to say the timing is no less than perfect, considering it will complement our Chief Executive’s directive to intensify our government’s fight against illegal gambling. May the same be as relentless and uncompromising in the war against illegal drugs in dealing with large-scale operators and their protectors in government and in law enforcement.
Mr. President, Senate Bill 909, courtesy of our colleague Sen. Gatchalian, adopts the same scale of penalties provided for under RA 9287. Under the proposed amendment, the said penalties shall now be made applicable to other illegal gambling activities namely:
1. Cockfighting or tupada
2. Jai-alai or horse racing
3. Cara y cruz or pompyang
4. 7-11 and any game using dice
5. Blackjack, Lucky 9, pusoy or Russian poker, monte, baccarat, sakla, wahaw, panggingue and other card games
6. Mahjongg, domino and other games using plastic tiles and the like
7. Slot machines, roulette, pinball, fruit game and other mechanical contraptions and devices
8. Dog racing, boat racing, car racing and other forms of races
9. Game fixing, point shaving and other machinations in individual or team efforts contests
10. Banking or percentage game, or any other game or scheme and its derivatives whether upon chance or skill, wherein wagers consisting of money, articles of value
Mr. President, these illegal gambling activities are already long defined as criminal acts in our statutes. These days, we rely on navigational applications such as Waze to avoid traffic congestions. Kung saan-saang kalye tayo padadaanin ni Waze, only to find out na mababara ka sa napakasikip na kalye ng Metro Manila. Hindi na nakakagulat na may makita kang kabaong sa tabi ng daan, ng mga taong nagsusugal sa ilalim ng toldang may pangalan pa ni Kagawad. Pag pinabalik ka ni Waze matapos ang isang buwan, aba, naroon pa ang kabaong sa tabi ng daan, naroon pa rin ang tolda at pangalan ni kagawad, sampu ng mga tanong nagsusugal.
The practice of gambling in wakes has sadly formed part of the Filipino culture. As sociologists would say, illegal gambling is used as means to keep mourners around and provide financial assistance to the family of the dead.
Sakla for example is just another lucrative scheme for illegal gambling operators by taking advantage of the loss of a family member. 60-40 ang hatian. 60 percent sa operator at ang 40 percent sa naulilang pamilya. Kabahagi sa 60 percent si police scalawag, barangay chairman o kagawad, at minsan umaabot pa sa City Hall. Illegal gambling is vulnerable to police harassment, which ultimately translates to corruption.
Mr. President, the social problems created by illegal gambling such as addiction, domestic violence, indebtedness and other forms of crimes resulting thereto outweigh its supposed alluring benefits. Illegal gambling must be penalized heavily. As stated in an article I read, “Gambling is an addictive behavior. Make no mistake about it. It has all the properties of a psychoactive substance. It changes the neurochemistry of the brain. In other words, the excitement of the possibility of winning a huge sum of money with minimal investment has a narcotic-like effect on the brain that calls for greater and greater risks in the hope of the big win.”
The ultimate goal of this proposed measure is to put behind bars for a significant number of years not only the operators but also those in positions of power colluding with them, who knowingly operate with the desire to keep patrons addicted and in some cases indebted without regard to its implications to the Filipino family.
Change has indeed come, Mr. President, though some changes resulted in divisiveness. I hope you agree that we should have a common stand in the fight against illegal gambling in the Philippines. It must end here.
By the way, Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, the bank manager in my short story at the opening of this sponsorship speech is my brother. The young police provincial director at the time was a police superintendent who would rise from the ranks to become chief of the Philippine National Police and later senator of the Republic. His name, Panfilo M. Lacson, your chairman, Committee on Games and Amusement of the 17th Congress. Thank you, Mr. President.