‘Jueteng,’ raffle, bingo and other illegalities

MANILA, Philippines—For over a century, “jueteng” has been a national scourge. Though outlawed and criminalized by our lawmakers since 1930 when the Revised Penal Code (RPC) was enacted, and before that, from 1886 to 1930 when the Spanish Penal Code was still in effect in our country, jueteng persists to this day.

Unabated scourge. Indeed, the scourge has remained unabated. As a young boy during World War II, I witnessed our neighbors in the barrio of Mandili in Candaba, Pampanga, play the game quite openly. A “cobrador” made the round of the houses in the morning collecting bets and repeated the rounds in the late afternoon announcing the winners and encouraging the losers to try again the following day. Amid fighting the Japanese invaders, the gutsy guerrillas found time to bet and, sometimes, to win!

During martial law, the penalties for illegal gambling, especially jueteng, were increased by Presidential Decree (PD) 1602 “to be more effective in combating this social menace.” In 2004—as a result of extensive investigations in aid of legislation—Congress enacted Republic Act (RA) 9267 further increasing the penalties and widening the scope of accountable persons “to stop and eradicate the existence of the illegal numbers games…”

For its part, the Supreme Court—during the last 100 years—never tired of imposing the stiffest penalties prescribed by Congress. It denounced gambling as an “act beyond the pale of good morals, which, for the welfare of the people, should be exterminated… The pernicious practice is rightfully regarded as, demoralizing in its association and tendencies, detrimental to the best interest of society, and encouraging… the belief that a livelihood may be earned by means other than honest industry. To be condemned in itself, it has the further effect of causing poverty, dishonesty, fraud and deceit.”

Despite these legislated righteousness and judicial sanctimoniousness, jueteng continued to flourish over the years. In fact, according to its articulate nemesis, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, it has never been more prevalent than now. Ironically, instead of stamping out jueteng, many high government and police officials have been implicated as coddlers and bribe-takers of fantastic sums.

Raffle, bingo, etc. To be sure, jueteng may be the most damned “gambling cancer,” but it is not the only game in town. It has many variants like lottery, raffle, bingo, guessing contests and other schemes “the result of which depends wholly or chiefly upon chance or hazard.” These variants are illegal because, according to the Supreme Court, “the distribution of the prizes (is made) by chance among persons who have paid, or agreed to pay, a valuable consideration for the chance to obtain a prize.”

To be illegal, the variant must have four elements: (1) a consideration is paid by a participant (2) to be entitled to win (3) a prize or advantage or value (4) chiefly or wholly on chance. Even if the purpose is laudable, like a charitable or religious or parish cause, the illegality remains if the payment is made to win a prize chiefly by chance or hazard. Participating in a raffle is an illegality!

However, if no payment is required to participate, there is no illegality. Thus, winning a raffle during a golf tournament in which the winners did not pay to participate is not gambling, even if they may have paid the normal green fee to be able to play. Here, the fee was not used to fund the raffle, the prize having been donated to promote a product or given by one who was not reimbursed from the players’ remittances. “To be a lottery as contemplated by the gambling law, players must part with their money or property on a naked chance to win,” says the Court.

There are many games of chance that have been legalized and regulated by the government, like horse races, sweepstakes, small town lotteries (STL), cockfighting and casinos. Frustrated over the inability of the Executive Department to contain jueteng, many leaders proposed its legalization too.

No to legalization. With due respect, I believe that legalizing jueteng and the many gambling variants, will not diminish their pernicious effects. Legalization will merely affirm the “belief (earlier denounced by the Supreme Court) that a livelihood may be earned by means other than honest industry.” Worse, legalization would send the wrong message to our people that jueteng is a patriotic act because it contributes dubious taxes to the national coffers.

It will also negate RA 9287’s teaching that gambling causes a “disregard for the value of dignified work, perseverance and thrift since instant monetary gain from it are being equated to success, thereby becoming a widespread social menace and source of corruption.”

Legalizing jueteng—because of the government’s inability to stop it—is like legalizing theft because the police could not catch the thieves. It is just like championing corruption because the state could not eradicate it and because some of the highest government officials wallow in it.

No, I refuse to believe that P-Noy would agree to legalize what is morally reprehensible and socially pernicious. That theft and corruption have not been abated over the last 100 is no reason to legalize them. The government’s failure to stop jueteng is no reason to force our people to live with “dishonesty, fraud and deceit.” There is only one solution, and that—according to the Supreme Court—is “to enforce the law to the limit.”


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