By: Daily Guardian Editorial Team
“BASI mabaligya na lang ko shabu (I might sell shabu).”
This was the reaction of one of the thousands of Small Town Lottery (STL) coredores or bet collectors in Iloilo after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a stop to all gambling operations supervised by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
“Gamay man lang income sa STL pero makakaon kami tatlo ka beses isa ka adlaw. Kay wala na STL, wala na pangitan-an. Daw mapilitan ka man mag-himu krimen sini (Income from STL is not that much but we can eat three times a day. Since there is no more STL, we don’t have any livelihood. I’m thinking of resorting to crime because of this),” said Manong Johnny, a bet collector in Mandurriao.
Johnny is just one of the thousands of STL bet collectors working for ZFIC Gaming Corp., the authorized agent corporation (AAC) that runs STL in Iloilo City.
ZFIC also took over STL operations in Iloilo province from Red Subay Gaming Corp.
The PCSO allows one AAC per local government unit. In the rest of Western Visayas, separate AACs run the STL in Antique, Aklan, Capiz, Guimaras, Bacolod City, and Negros Occidental.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday evening declared all PCSO games as illegal and ordered law enforcers to implement closure of gaming outlets due to “massive corruption.”
Aside from STL, the PCSO also supervises the sweepstakes, lotto, Keno, and Peryahan ng Bayan (PnB).
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told ANC that “There is a massive corruption going on… All players and participants of these gaming operations are involved. There’s a growing conspiracy to cheat this government and its rightful shares.”
Daily Guardian tried to get the comment of PCSO-Iloilo manager Jeanette Lloyd but she did not respond to our text message.
Right after Duterte’s order, the PNP begun shutting down the gaming outlets.
In Iloilo City, police units shuttered 75 Small Town Lottery (STL), lotto, and Keno outlets.
The Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) also closed down 155 PCSO-sanctioned gambling operations – 93 STL outlets and its sole main station, 53 lotto outlets, and 8 Keno outlets.
In Negros Occidental, the closure affected 162 lotto, STL, Keno, and PnB outlets while in Bacolod, 41 lotto, 29 Keno, and 6 STL outlets were shut down.
In Capiz, an estimated 2,000 individuals lost their jobs after the shutdown.
Alberto “Jojo” Roldan, STL consultant in Capiz, said he was saddened by the shutdown because several Capiceños depend on the PCSO games for their livelihood as sales representatives, supervisors, and employees of STL and Lotto operations.
While they are dismayed, Roldan said they respect the decision of the President.
Roldan said STL remits P6 millions monthly to the PCSO which is used to help the poor by way of medical assistance, among others.
Police Colonel Romeo Baleros, director of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo), said they supervised and coordinated with different PCSO outlets throughout the province.
Based on the records from Nocppo, 40 lotto outlets, seven Keno outlets, four Peryahan ng Bayan, and 34 STL outlets, were shut down.
The full cooperation of PCSO personnel to the police officers showed their submission to the law, Baleros said.
Police Major Rollie Pondevilla, Silay City police chief, led the closure of the main office of an STL collection agent in the said city in Negros Occidental over the weekend.
“We are just implementing based on the order of the president and directive from the higher headquarters,” he said.
Pondevilla said there was no resistance on the part of the employees during the enforcement of the closure order.
In May this year, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Bacolod shut down five branches of Peryahan ng Bayan at the cities of Himamaylan and Victorias, and towns of Murcia, E.B. Magalona, and Hinigaran for alleged illegal gambling operations.
In 2018, the NBI also closed down two branches in the province for the same offense.
The operator, however, earlier maintained that its operations in the province are legal and lawful, citing a court decision that upheld the status quo ante order issued by the Pasig Regional Trial Court.
Meanwhile, Police Colonel Henry Biñas, director of Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO), said the only outlet of Peryahan ng Bayan here was already closed even before the recent order of the president probably due to some technicalities in its operations.
Closed here were 41 lotto, 29 Keno, and six STL outlets.
Biñas said the city police force complied with the directive, closing all outlets located in 61 barangays here. He added that they did not encounter any problem during the operation. (With reports from Jennifer Ponsaran-Rendon, Glayzl Y. Masculino, Felipe V. Celino, and Francis Allan L. Angelo)