A potent mix that should be destroyed

February 18, 2020

PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Archie Gamboa for the record will become the country’s first top cop to really demand an honest-to-goodness campaign against illegal ‘video-karera’ machines which for decades now have proliferated in Metro Manila and other parts of the country but is now the target of a police ‘search-and-destroy’ operation amid their association with illegal drugs.

Many police commanders in the past have not touched this illegal gambling activity until Gen. Gamboa said it is now time to really get them since they are not only a main source of corruption in the force but also because they have been associated with shabu and marijuana . I hope and pray that the campaign will be forever.

Yesterday, I was present when PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Lieutenant Gen. Gilor Eleazar and PNP Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group director, Colonel and soon-to-be Brigadier Gen. Ronald Lee led the destruction of over 50 ‘video karera and fruit game’ machines and their mother boards at the PNP-IMEG headquarters in Camp Crame.

The two also led the signing of a ‘No-Take Policy’ manifesto as they vowed to fully support the PNP chief’s all-out war on all forms of illegal gambling activities in the country. To refresh everybody’s minds, those ‘VK machines’ were seized in a series of anti-illegal gambling operations in Metro Manila and Bulacan province last month.

The PNP-IMEG operations actually triggered the relief of the erstwhile Southern Police District director, the chiefs of police of Caloocan, Muntinlupa and Pasay cities, the Bulacan police director and several NCRPO PCP commanders. Bad news to many policemen specifically to those who depend on ‘VK and other illegal gambling money’ to sustain their monthly operations.

However, the PNP chief has spoken and everybody must toe the line. As Eleazar had pointed out, Gen. Gamboa had sent a very strong message to all his commanders when he ordered the relief of many who refused to follow his ‘No-Take policy’ including some in the regions.

Lee told me that ‘VK and fruit game’ machines are highly-lucrative businesses which have been associated with illegal drug abuse. “These illegal gambling machines have been put up in mostly depressed areas in Metro Manila and other parts of the country, mostly near known drug havens and are open 24-hours a day so that drug users whiling away their time can play using P1 coin,” he said.

The PNP-IMEG director told me that operating a ‘VK’ machine is a very lucrative business since it earns a minimum of P500 to as much as P1,200 a day. “It means that having 1,000 VK machines spread in different parts of the city and operating round-the-clock, the operator can earn millions of pesos a month,” Lee said. That also means huge protection money to everybody who dips their fingers into the banned machines.

Gen. Gamboa has ordered all his officials to see to it that the mother board of all confiscated ‘VK machines will be fully destroyed to allay apprehensions they might be recycled.  The destruction should also be fully documented. Why? There’s a story that during his stint as PNP chief, my friend Gen. Alan Purisima was invited to attend a ‘VK’ destruction ceremony. When he inspected the machine he was about to hammer, the latter got angry when he discovered that its mother board was already missing. As a result, Purisima ordered the relief of the one who invited him.

Gen. Gamboa this time wants the destruction of the mother board and the ‘VK console to
be videotaped. In the past, some enterprising policemen in different parts of the country were known for removing the mother boards of VK machines they confiscate before presenting them for public destruction in front of the media. These mother boards are then transferred to other ‘VK’ machines and recycled back in the market.

Eleazar said that ‘VK’ and other forms of illegal gambling activities in the country really pose a threat to a family, to the community and the society as a whole. “Gambling has always been part of the Filipino culture. I’m sure that all of us here have personal experience on any form of gambling once upon a time in our lives— jueteng, tong-its, ending et cetera. From a simple gathering of friends and family reunions pati sa mga burol at even fiesta celebration, there will always be one or two popular forms of gamblings to resort to for entertainment,” he said.

“There are even popular forms of gambling depending on your social status: Sabi nga kapag jologs ka, cara  y cruz, tong-its at tupada. Kapag naman medyo sosyal ay poker, bacarrat at derby.

Gambling is so popular in our culture that most of the Filipinos were able to relate to the recently popular song ‘Manok na Pula’. Yung asawa ay binugbog ni misis dahil yung sweldo ay natalo lahat sa pagpusta sa sabong, sa pagpusta sa natalong manok na pula,” he narrated.

The PNP’s no. 3 official said that over the years, “we have also witnessed the transformation, the evolution of gambling that is why we now have e-sabong, these video karera machines, and other forms of online games. But behind the fun and thrill of gambling is a serious threat to a person’s mindset, a threat to a family, to the community and to the society as a whole.”

“That is why I personally believe that illegal gambling operation is the second serious social problem next to illegal drugs operations that must be addresed. Like illegal drugs, gambling addiction robs the sanity of a person both young and old as it affects both his potential and productivity,  it instigates dysfunctionalism in the family and it poses threat to the community where he lives when he is forced to do something to sustain his gambling addiction.”

The worst part of this is if it infects the government agencies like the PNP in the form of bribery and other forms of corruption. This is the reason why illegal gambling syndicates have become emboldened to go on with their operations up to the point of open defiance and circumventing the law for the sake of earning easy and dirty money,” he explained.

Lt. Gen. Eleazar also said that moneyed illegal gambling operators also have the gall to file charges against policemen going after them in the past. “Saan ka naman nakakita na ang lalakas ng loob at ang kakapal ng mga mukha ng mga ito na kasuhan ang mga pulis na ginagawa lamang ang kanilang tungkulin para sugpuin ang illegal gambling operations. Dumating na nga sa punto na ang ilang mga pulis ay takot nang mag-operate dahil alam nila na sasampahan sila ng patong-patong na harassment cases kaya nagkaroon tuloy ng idea ang ilang mga dating matitinong pulis na ‘if we cannot beat them, join them’ na lang.”
However, he said that with President Duterte and Gen. Gamboa backing the police, all they have to do is to take advantage of it “to get even with these illegal gambling syndicates that openly and boldy challenged us before, these illegal gambling syndicates that tainted our beloved organization, and these illegal gambling syndicates that continue to threaten the morality of our society.”

To do this, Eleazar said police should leave no stones unturned in punishing all PNP personnel involved in these illegal activities while rewarding those who act towards protecting the good name of the organization. On behalf of Gen. Gamboa, Eleazar commended the PNP-IMEG and all other police commanders who have showed the courage to stand up anew against illegal gambling.