By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
The other City in the Cordillera is Tabuk, in the province of Kalinga. Except for what is in today in architectural design and building materials Tabuk City looks like La Trinidad in the 70’s. No wonder Gov. Fongwan likes visiting the place. I visited Tabuk City a few days ago and one thing I found unbelievably surprising and worth praising (Something Gov Fongwan or Baguio’s mayor does not have), is a province and a city free from Jueteng!
On the road to Tabuk, I thought I should look around feel and see if Jueteng was making itself felt in this city and maybe in the province too, after all this was the main town of the province. At the crossing where the carabao statue is, was where we disembarked the bus from Baguio, it was also where the tricycles waited for their passengers or vice versa, a typical bus stop with the turo-turo, loading area and waiting passengers. While deciding where to go first, I looked around for a cobrador. I did not see any but maybe the bookies here do not look like those in Baguio so I noted that I should ask. Then Art, whom I traveled with, and I set off for breakfast.
In Baguio or La Trinidad, if anyone wanted to place a bet on the underworld lottery, one looks for the street-corner bookie better known as the cobrador. Jueteng is an illegal numbers game but it also is the most popular poor-man’s lottery in the country.
The House conducted an inquiry about a decade ago which exposed deals deemed illegal and caused the impeachment of then President Joseph Estrada or Erap. The hearing opened up and detailed to the public a gamut of its nationwide operations and insights to the recipients of its super profits.
Exposed also in that hearing and stated as a matter of fact was that jueteng can not exist (in any town) without the involvement of local executives and their counterparts in the hierarchy of the police and/or the military. Some politicians however have a penchant of swearing, things like “uray bumtak ti boksit ko”, that there is no jueteng in their jurisdiction.
Still the betting public knows where to find their lucky cobrador if jueteng does thrive in their towns.
So while we were in Tabuk commuting in trikes and dropping by offices finishing the business we came for, I also asked around about jueteng in Kalinga.
I held suspect the first answer I got and was surprised on the second for lo and behold, the guy swore in Iloco that “there is no jueteng here, the governor removed it from here, you can ask anyone,” he said.
Then over lunch with some friends, I checked again. They laughed at me as my unbelieving surprise was exposed. One of them explained to me how it was true and that it was all to the good credit of Kalinga’s governor.
We were also shared some anecdotes like some officials regret they no longer have special sources to buy trophies for the barangay or school competitions when they come knocking at their doors to solicit.
And how the nearest town of a neighboring province hits the jackpot by getting jueteng bets across the boundary.
Knowing that my impression of the governor was tainted by a case of infringing on press freedom last year, these friends patiently gave clarity to issues to allow me some objectivity. Still the political will to really clean one’s jurisdiction of jueteng during one’s term and keep it clear of it for the longest time is by all counts commendable.
Except for that bad temper, it would be to Gov Fongwan’s advantage if some of that anti-jueteng rubs off on him, … I mean, on our province. # nordis.net