Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Folly that is STL

Gambling has become cultural for the Filipinos. Historians would contend that there are forms of gambling that were part of heritage we got from various nationalities that came to our shore. Nonetheless, a form or two have become so much a part of our lives that today we talk of our identity and we never fail to associate those. Actually, same is true to our collective identity and history. For instance, we talk of jueteng and we cannot fail to mention the (un)fortunate event that is the downfall of the presidency of Erap Estrada, and the more (un)fortunate rise to power of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The latter it was under whose incumbency did the Small Town Lottery began to legally enter into our social life.

Small Town Lottery (STL) is said to have been conceived to "kill" the illegal numbers game of jueteng. Jueteng is illegal, and has been a source of corruption among government officials. The bets of people enrich the jueteng capitalists -- the most prominent of whom is a kumpadre to PGMA.

Thus, to get rid of an illegal number game the government solution is to make it legal. This is just one of the impressions on STL. For mechanics-wise, it is no different from jueteng -- only that it has more numbers (36 for jueteng, 40 for STL) that is tantamount to lesser chances of winning, and lesser pot money for winners.

It was advertised as a potential fiscal source of up to six to ten billion pesos (P6-10B) annually for financing of the government's social services to its people.

Likewise, it is said to be under the PCSO. That means, this requires franchise. It is being claim that the actual operations of the STL is also under the monitoring of the LGU's. This set-up gives the impression that there is nothing wrong with the set-up and the system of the STL. For a government agency -- which is even directly under the Office of the President -- exercises supervision over its operations.

In the province of Occidental Mindoro, STL is being operated by Royal Viva Research Corporation. Frankly, I do not know the corporators of this corporation; what I knew is that it is being housed by the Syquioco family along Mabini Street, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. And its operations is provincial-wide (hence, in this case the Small Town Lottery is misnomer.)!

The fact is it gained its way to Occidental Mindoro by virtue of Resolution 163, s. 2005 of our Sangguniang Panlalawigan being the basis of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office for granting the Royal Viva Research Corporation a franchise to operate STL in the province. Another fact is that the Resolution 163, s. 2005 is a pro-forma of PCSO, upon which the provincial board members will only to affix their signatures. Actually, the said Resolution asked for only a year for a trial run, after which the succeeding years of its existence and operations will be based.

The Resolution contended that there are reasons for the operations of STL in the province: (1) it is for employment; (2) it is a source of revenue for the LGU and the national government; (3) it is going to annihilate jueteng; among others.

It has been two years since Resolution 163. The trial run has ended. Actually, I fear that STL is here already to stay. However, I am still trying to psyche myself to be optimistic that it's going to stop anyway and anyhow.

First, because of the present composition of the provincial board members. I understand among the provincial board members, there are those who would like to have STL disappear from the face of Occidental Mindoro. However, understanding the Implementing Rules and Regulations of STL, it actually does need the nod of the provincial council for its continued existence. That is why it is called Small Town Lottery. Any mayor of any municipality can decide to have it within its municipal territory! Already now, the Mintu's of Sablayan have been saying that they are to have it in Sablayan. Fact is, Board Member Manuel Mintu -- a nephew of Mayor Godofredo Mintu of Sablayan -- is one of the prime endorsers of Resolution 163.

Secondly, the trial run of STL can stand against its succeeding operations. It was learned that the monitoring of the LGU is sham. For to totally monitor its operations, the LGU has to assign its personnel to each and every agent of the STL. To just wait when all the bets are in and monitor the recording proves to be counter-productive and self-defeating. However, crumbs it may be that LGU receives, these are still money. Ang a potential source of extra money. Governor Sato was able to launch a project called YAKAP NI NENE out of the STL money. Rep. Villarosa reportedly gets her share -- and as the LGU's point out, the lone district of Occidental Mindoro does not have receipt for any amount that it receives.

And, lastly, in a society of which people's predilection is to gamble, to argue and campaign against the "legalized jueteng" is too taxing. For such people, truth is determined by number of believers and not by the substance on which it stands. Thus, that STL is demoralizing is negated by the fact that Royal Viva Research Corporation is able to maintain a big number of followers.

At least, to their mind...

Of course, this post is never complete withou mentioning that one of the board members, Hon. Nathan Cruz, who is an avid supporter of STL is said to be payrolled by Mayor Hagedorn of Palawan -- the nationally known conceiver of STL.

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