Having been sworn in as the new mayor of Manila, veteran Filipino politician Joseph Estrada has paid a visit to the capital city’s police force this week. Speaking before Manila Police District commanders, Mayor Estrada announced that the city will fight against illegal gambling using all available means.
The targeted activities include virtual horse racing, slots and some forms of Philippines sports betting.
Philippine gambling laws are among the most permissive ones in the region – indeed, the world – concerning the forms of gambling allowed, though most of those forms are monopolized by the state.
For instance, the only legal Philippines poker rooms in operation are run by state company PAGCOR, and sports betting is managed by MSW.
Despite the ban, however, illegal operation of otherwise legal forms of gambling, as well as illegal forms of gambling exists on a huge scale. Although politicians often make powerful statements, the situation on the ground tends to remain unchanged.
The message from the mayor was that police must be determined and vigilant in the fight against illegal gambling and against police corruption.
“We will immediately relieve those officers who are not able to stop illegal gambling in their respective jurisdictions. I challenge you, especially the station commanders, to start cleaning up your ranks. If you cannot do this, you might as well resign because I will personally go after you,” said the mayor.
He also added that “I will consistently lead by example. I will not ask you to do something, which I am not prepared to do myself. No amount of lip service can hide hypocrisy for a long time.”
That’s a bold statement, considering that as recently as 2007 he was found guilty of accepting around USD 12.5 million in bribes from jueteng operators during his tenure as the president of the country.
Although no one alleges improper conduct this time around, when asked by journalists whether his crusade against illegal gambling would cover jueteng games, he pointed out that around 163,000 people make a living from it, and asked: “What’s the alternative? What will people live on if you stop it?”
Jueteng is a widely practiced illegal numbers game, played by millions across the country, but the nation’s newly elected president has already rejected requests to legalize it. This obviously points to a clear conflict of intent between the capital’s mayor and President Aquino, so everything is likely to remain unchanged in the Philippines.