Readdressing Jueteng in Baguio
by Christer John Familara, Stella Garce and Christine Joy Prestoza
Early morning,while walking along the street, passing through a waiting shed near the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Upper Session Road, a takatak boy wearing rugged clothes and a pair of slippers, suddenly approaches a jeepney driver who is waiting for his passengers, greeting the latter, “16,32.” The jeepney driver greets back, “11,3”, with a 20-peso bill on his hand.
Apparently, these numbers do not mean “good morning”. These might be the jeepney driver’s source of extra income. “11,3” might even change his life.
Existence of Jueteng
SPO3 Ray Ekid of the Investigation Unit of BCPO Main Office, said that jueteng is a tradition, a custom, a common, continual practice. People engage in jueteng not as a game but as a business where they invest their money expecting to earn big income.
“Sino ba ang nagsabing may jueteng?” This was the most clichéd sentence used by five out of six policemen who were interviewed. They used the same question as their initial response when they were asked about jueteng. Not only the policemen said the following statement but also the municipal trial court clerk Armand Ydia and DILG City Director Evelyn Trinidad. This results in speculations that they might know something about the existence of jueteng. Does jueteng still exist or they are just hiding the fact that it is still existing.
Manang Emma, 50, was born in Isabela and went to Baguio to work until she had her own family. She is a mother of five, and was able to send her children to school through working as a vendor of banana-cue and junk foods near a known university.
Manang Emma admitted that apart from being a vendor and a part-time laundress, she is also a cobrador for almost 6 years. She said that there is still jueteng in Baguio City, and that is undeniable. They are found mostly in crowded area like the market.
People who usually bet on her are university employees, construction workers, taxi and jeepney drivers, and others who happen to pass by her stall.
Manang Emma said, “isa lang ang nagmamay-ari ng jueteng sa La Trinidad at Baguio pero taga-Tarlac yung nagpapabola. Marami silang baranggay na pinupuntahan. para hindi sila mahuli. Wala silang permanenteng lugar. Pag makikita sila, mahuhuli.” Though she said that if authorities will see the bolahan or the draw itself , the “nagpapabola” will get caught. But then she answered the question about the legality of jueteng with “hindi illegal ang jueteng, kasi ang tawag diyan jai-alai.” She claimed that jai-alai and jueteng are the same. And one of her kumares is a cabo (supervisor whom the collectors report to), who influenced her to get involved in the illegal numbers game.
“In fact, the city does not even have a single operator of the legal small-town lottery”, Baguio city mayor Mauricio Domogan said. “Baguio residents know this very well”, he added. Manang Emma, being a resident in Baguio, contradicts Domogan’s statements.
In an interview with SPO3 Erwin Flores, a chief clerk of BCPO Station 7 said, “Walang jueteng dito kasi walang bolahan. Ang bolahan ay ginagawa sa La Trinidad o sa Tuba, Benguet.” The existence of jueteng in a community depends on where the draw is conducted, regardless of where the bettor is. Where the ball draw is conducted, jueteng is present. So, technically, there is no jueteng in Baguio.
The statements of BCPO Public Information Officer Karissma Sta. Juana somehow agree with Flores’. According to her, originally, there was no jueteng in the city.
“Walang jueteng pero we are affected by other municipalities na may jueteng kasi dumadayo sila dito para magpataya,” says Sta. Juana. Jueteng operators and cobradors entered and proliferated in Baguio City that the residents were just influenced by them and got involved in the illegal numbers game. The cobradors originally came from outside the city.
On the other hand, SPO3 Ekid proved that even some law enforcers are involved in the said illegal activity. He confessed that he bets on jueteng to the cobradors outside their police station, and in fact, he just won last January. “Jueteng exists regardless of where the draw is conducted”, he said. “Where there are bets and bettors, there is jueteng. Kung saan-saan lang nagbobola. Walang permanenteng lugar ng bola. Kahit nga sa loob ng sasakyan pwede. Pati yung mga nangongobra walang alam kung saan. Hindi rin pwedeng sumama yung mga cabo sa bolahan unless payagan sila ng operator,” he added.
According to Ekid, “Minsan pa nga wala ng bolahan. Pipili na lang ng dalawang numbers yung operator tapos itetext sa cabo yung winning numbers. Yung cabo yung magsasabi sa mga kubrador nya kung ano yung mga numbers, tapos sila ng bahalang magbigay ng panalo sa nanalo.”
Jai-alai as a front to Jueteng
Manong Mike, 68, despite of his age can still go around jeepney terminals in Bayanihan to collect bets from jeepney drivers, barkers, and even passengers. He has been a jai-alai supervisor for five years. He said that, “limang taon ng walang jueteng.” He shifted from being a cobrador of jueteng to jai-alai since jueteng was banned nationwide.
According to Sta. Juana, both jueteng and jai-alai exist in Baguio City. “The case of jai-alai is still under dispute, thus making it illegal in the city,” she said. In her statement, Sta. Juana said that they have been receiving reports from the intelligence information about jueteng and jai alai. “Most of the people thought that jai-alai is legal because they have been permitted in the national level. But, having no permit from the city government will still make jai-alai illegal,” Sta. Juana said.
On the contrary, SPO3 Ekid clarified that jai-alai does not exist in Baguio. “It is only used to cover the operation of jueteng inside the city,” he said.
Jai-alai is more exposed to the public, and can be seen especially in jeepney terminals and marketplaces, than jueteng. We noticed that the cobradors of jai-alai, who are using the game to front jueteng, are not afraid to bring out the illegal activity to the public because they are not aware that it is illegal.
Cabo in a jeepney terminal
Jai-alai was first introduced as basque pelota games in 1899 in the Philippines. Through the Proclamation Decree No.810, Marcos granted the operation of Jai-alai in1975, but was cancelled during the Aquino administration in 1987. In 2009, the government says that a company must have a legislative franchise to operate jai-alai.
Now, it is only in Sta.Ana, Cagayan where the jai-alai is being operated.
It started its comeback operation under the jurisdiction of Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), at Racat-Rapuli, Sta. Ana, Cagayan Valley by Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation in 2010, after being banned by the government many years ago.
The section 5 of Republic Act No. 954 states that, “No person, operator, or maintainer of a fronton with legislative franchise to conduct basque pelota games shall offer, take or arrange bets on any basque pelota game or event, or maintain or use a totalizator or other device, method or system to bet or gamble or any basque pelota game or event outside the place, enclosure, or fronton where the basque pelota game is held.”
This law means that basque pelota games or jai-alai is not allowed to be operated in Baguio City, or in places other than in Cagayan Valley. That is why policemen say that there is no jai-alai operation in the city.
Jai-alai paraphernalia are seen all around marketplaces, particularly in Hilltop, and jeepney terminals, held by bet collectors who are waiting for their usual bettors. However, the operation is still jueteng. The bettor who was walking along the Hiltop bets on jueteng, but the bet collector showed him the jai-alai sheet.
Both games use the same sets of numbers from 1 to 38. The cobrados in jai alai will give a piece of paper to the bettors that serves as their receipt. The receipt contains the numbers bet by the bettor which will be their proof to the cobrador if they win. Unlike in jueteng, the cobrador lists down the name with the bettors bet numbers in a piece of paper and there is no receipt given to them. Jai alai requires the bettor to use three different numbers while jueteng only requires two.
List of betting numbers
Manong Mike, the jai-alai supervisor, stayed in one corner of Juliana Apartment along Otek Street. He was a jueteng cobrador for 25 years, and he currently works as a jai-alai supervisor for five years. He has four children and had sent them, including some of his relatives, to finish college, by working only in these illegal numbers games.
Manong Mike earned more in jueteng/jai-alai than in lotto. He also bets, aside from being a bet collector. He receives P100, 000 – P300, 000 whenever wins in jueteng, occasionally. Aside from his winnings, he also gets 10% as his commission.
The BCPO has cases where jai-alai was used as a front to jueteng. Sta. Juana said that during the last quarter of 2011, there were 37 of these cases.
Manong Mike while listing the bettor’s bet numbers
Operations against jueteng
Jueteng operation has been reaching its normality as a usual form of gambling. This kind of illegal gambling which has become a big issue nationwide is said to be done in public places in Baguio. Despite this, police officers were reported that they do not conduct any investigation or even give warning to the jueteng operators.
A vegetable vendor from Hilltop, who also works as a cobrador said that policemen often ignore those bettors and cobradors that they see. SPO3 Flores and Ekid proved this statement . “Yun lang ang pinagkakakitaan nila kaya minsan, hindi na namin sila hinuhuli dahil nakakaawa”, these policemen said.
Since jueteng is still very prevalent in the city, most people thought that the authority is not doing their part to eradicate gambling.
But, Sta. Juana confirmed that Baguio policemen are always in action against jueteng and that it will never be tolerated. “Para maalis ang jueteng, kailangan munang patayin yung ugat na pinagmulan nito. Kahit pulitiko man yan o police officer, there are punishments that should be done,” she said. Bettors are not being arrested, only the cobradors, cabos, and facilitators of jueteng are captured.
DILG City Director and Task Force Jupiter Action Officer Evelyn Trinidad explained how the police officers conduct their operations. According to her, the officers of the task force are continuously investigating on the alleged existence of jueteng in Baguio. Task force Jupiter was directed by the Mayor Mauricio Domogan to intensify the campaign against illegal gambling through monitoring, arresting and involving the public especially in its advocacy campaign. It is composed of different agencies like DILG, NBI, CIDG, and PNP.
Monitoring and surveillance are led by the BCPO. Sta. Juana said that limited number of policemen adds to the reason why it is difficult to eliminate jueteng. One policeman to monitor 500 people is ideal. But now, the city has only one policeman for 1, 700 people. A policeman is assigned to monitor one to three barangays. They will first send a police group to cover and survey the place if they receive a report from a concerned citizen. Once they have confirmed the existence of the illegal activity in the area, then, that is the time when they will do the raid and arrest.
The advocacy campaign against jueteng is done in different colleges, in Baguio City but now, they also involve elementary and high schools. This advocacy will inform the public, through the students, about different forms gambling and the effects at large. The advocacy against illegal gambling has established a network to colleges through the National Service Training Program (NSTP). The students will share what was taught to them to the community where they will be deployed.
In fact, in November 2010, one case of jueteng was recorded that resulted in the arrest of three people. While in January to September of 2011, the Task Force Jupiter conducted 24 illegal gambling operations, and 12 of these cases were of jueteng. From these 12 operations, 40 people were arrested and had confiscated P12, 831.25.
The continuity of jueteng in Baguio city, since it had started decades ago, is being stopped not only through police operations, but now, through campaign. Aside from arresting gamblers, the city government currently conducts a new way to fight illegal gambling by educating and informing the people through their advocacy. This advocacy increases the awareness of people on the positive and negative preferences of gambling; making it known to people before they get involved and caught.
As long as jueteng continues, the next generations will also be saying what Manang Emma claimed, “Patay na ang lolo ko, buhay na buhay pa rin ang jueteng.”