Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Jueteng agenda

AT first blush it would seem that Archbishop Oscar Cruz is a solitary prophet crying in the wilderness yet with admirable courage and gait in his crusade against what he calls a persistent curse that is Jueteng.

But actually he is not. He is backed up with three pastoral statements of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. In 2003, the bishops issued “Eradicate Gambling: It is Moral and Social Cancer.” In 2005, “CBCP Statement on Gambling.” And again, in 2006, “Plea and Appeal: Stop STL, Please.” And this, not to mention the pastoral letter on gambling issued by Northern Luzon Bishops in 1993 entitled, “Make Yourselves a New Heart and a New Spirit: A Joint Pastoral Letter on Gambling.”

Yet all this aside, it is really his deep conviction and conscience that give him the drive to transcend to a realm of fools where even holy angels fear to thread. This is the kind of witnessing that erstwhile we only read in conciliar documents and encyclicals, but now we see incarnated in an exemplary valor of one man—a man who has always been willing to trade off the comfort of an ivory tower with the risk of one’s life attendant to denouncing evil, in much the same fashion and reminiscent of John the Baptist in the holy book.

Be that as it may, but the social transformation advocated by the present dispensation will remain a hollow slogan unless Jueteng or the preferential option for gambling remains in tow. No social reforms will ever be feasible if Jueteng and all its dubious variations are on the ledge.

To drive home the point, take, for instance, electoral reforms. While it is true that with poll automation quite a number of electoral anomalies have been skirted, vote buying has morphed exponentially. In the last elections, reports have it that the votes of one household in predominantly Jueteng areas were priced from ten to twenty thousand pesos. In such places where vote buying is bankrolled by Jueteng, no amount of political education in parishes will ever sink in the minds and hearts of the electorate. He who controls the “cabos”, controls election results.

Indeed, Jueteng or its various forms robs the country of a democratic process and the sanctity of people’s right to suffrage. And this is not even saying about the other evils of gambling that fleece from the poor of the little they have. Which is why the move to legalize Jueteng because of the government’s happy inability to stop it, does not even smack of defeatism, but of a self-serving agenda that is obviously very profitable.

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