On the night of July 26, a Friday, the presidential palace posted on Facebook a video of President Rodrigo Duterte ordering not only “the closure” of all lotto and other state-run gaming outlets, but also the “arrest” of anyone who defied his order.
He declared all these games “illegal because as of today, all of those permits and concessions or whatever are terminated” on his orders. His reason—to stop “massive corruption”.
What followed next eerily reminded me of Ferdinand Marcos’ imposition of Martial Law, which started also on a Friday night.
Think about this.
By the afternoon of the next day, according to an ABS-CBN report, the police had shut down 21,173 lotto stores and gaming outlets NATIONWIDE.
When were the police given Duterte’s verbal directive—which was issued past office hours? And which to this day has not been formalized in a written order?
We can presume that shutting down such a vast number of establishments nationwide, complete with the yellow tape, spray paint and printed signs, required elaborate preparation and coordination.
The Philippine National Police chief, Director-General Oscar Albayalde himself went to Baguio City to oversee the closures there.
According to this ABS-CBN report, Albayalde had no written order to justify the closures. All he was showing around was the video of Duterte on Facebook ordering the closure and arrests.
In Metro Manila, least five people who defied the order were arrested, according to a CNN Philippine report, quoting National Capital Region Guillermo Eleazar, while ABS-CBN reported that all 2,211 lotto outlets were shuttered.
Under the Philippine Constitution and penal laws, you can only be arrested for a crime that you personally committed. Also, the arresting officers need to have a warrant.
In this case, the crime those arrested were accused of having done was engaging in an “illegal” operation, because Duterte had the night before declared all lotto and other state-run gaming schemes “illegal”.
Duterte also served notice he would defy court orders.
Under the law, only the courts can declare lotto illegal but Duterte—through a simple Facebook video post—declared lotto “illegal” – this after 24 years of legal operation, along with Small Town Lottery (STL) and Keno.
Duterte is imposing repressive rule better than Marcos. When Marcos imposed Martial Law in 1972, those who were arrested by the police and military were at least shown xeroxed copies of their warrants of arrest.
In this case, the police conducted warrantless arrests and closure of private commercial establishments on flimsy grounds—a Facebook video of a president ranting against massive corruption in the state-run gaming industry and issuing verbal orders.
On August 1, Duterte ordered “the suspension of lotto operations” lifted.
Suddenly, what he had declared “illegal” four days before, was suddenly legal once more. Why? He didn’t bother to explain. Neither did he issue a written order.
Duterte is really doing better than Marcos. Marcos had to issue a written order, signed by him, giving himself legislative and judicial powers. In Duterte’s case, all he had to do was tell his spokesman to quote Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea as saying that the suspension of lotto had been ordered lifted by the President.
No explanation needed.
Ten days have passed and no one, who was involved in the “massive corruption” has been arrested or named.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office said the four-day stoppage had resulted in a quarter of a billion pesos worth of losses in lotto revenues.
That’s a lot of money lost and this is on top of the loss in revenues incurred by the private lotto outlets.
What I find shocking, though, is that the public accepted such blatant violations of the law and of rights MEEKLY.
Perhaps many of them shrugged and thought, it’s just gambling.
I believe it’s more than that. The first section of the Bill of rights states that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law…”
I believe that what Duterte and his officials did unjustly deprived of liberty those who were arrested. Those whose lotto, STL and Keno outlets were shut down were also unjustly deprived of the enjoyment of their property.
The lack of public outrage to the lotto closures leaves me with much dread.
Next time, Duterte can simply cite “massive corruption” and shut down Congress.
Did he not call the lawmakers corrupt to their faces during his recent State of the Nation Address and did they not accept that meekly, even laughingly?
This recent closure of gaming outlets also shows the nation’s security forces so willing and fast to carry out Duterte’s orders.
And this is why I believe that what happened was a dry run for a planned crackdown.
On August 1, the same day that lotto operations resumed, Duterte hinted he was planning to do “something drastic”. In a speech during the 28th founding anniversary of the Bureau of Fire Protection, he told firemen:
"You have to help in the maintenance of law and order. Do not limit yourself diyan sa ano. Kulang nga tayo ng tao eh. I will explain in the coming days. But I’m about to do something drastic. It will not sit well with everybody, maybe including you, but it is needed. Sinabi ko sa inyo, wala akong ambisyon mag-diktador. On the day na ayaw – — ayaw kong bumaba sa Malacañan, patayin ninyo ako. Shoot me dead kung — if I overstay in Malacañan. I do not need it. I am tired. I want to rest. I just want to complete what I agreed with the people as the term of my mandate. ‘Yun lang po."
Here is the official transcript of Duterte’s video ordering the closure of lotto outlets and declaring them illegal.
"Sa mga kababayan ko, magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat.
I have today ordered the closure, the stoppage of all gaming schemes of whatever nature, however done, that got their franchises to do so from the PCSO.
The ground is massive corruption involving all — pati the courts who issued the — repeatedly issued injunctions to paralyze government and to allow corruption to thrive. Pending investigation, lahat ho ng laro ng Lotto, STL, Peryahan ng Bayan or whatever nature.
There’s one that — ‘yung gambling machine. [What’s the name?] Keno. I said all gaming activities, ‘yung gambling that got their franchise from government through PCSO are as of today suspended or terminated because of massive corruption.
Wala ako magawa. I have to do it. I will not honor transactions that are clearly on the side of, you know, scheming people, the Republic of the Philippines, of the money due it. Puro dayaan lahat at ‘yung mga kontrata ay parang — crafted in favor of corruption and to favor other corporations and people. I will not allow it.
As of today, I will not honor any — any order from any court stopping us or enjoining us to stop our desire to go into a massive investigation for the massive corruption that is existing in the PCSO.
Hinto lahat. That’s my order. Irrespective of the — ‘yung mga sinabi ko na na court order enjoining everybody to stop or not to do or what not to do, especially government.
Hindi ako papayag. And I said, I will not honor anything there. Everybody, everybody has to stop. I am ordering General Albayalde and the military to stop all these government — government-granted games which involves corruption. Lahat. Massive corruption.
So I repeat I’m ordering the military and the police to stop all gaming. Lotto, STL, Peryahan ng Bayan pati those machines that can be found everywhere which is actually gambling. If I — if I were… If I were to give my sentiment about gambling, mas gusto ko mawala ito lahat.
Kung meron man, I will maybe confer with the leaders of Congress muna. I am… The order is grounded on the preservation of the resources of the nation.
Additionally, the information is given to everybody that since — as of this moment, beginning now, the franchises, and licenses of whatever kind or nature granted by the PCSO, I said, to all gambling schemes, Lotto, Peryahan ng Bayan, STL, and those machines there that are found everywhere.
I will give them 24 hours to remove them from the public places. Tomorrow — beginning tomorrow, at sunrise everything, all transactions and gaming, waging — wager of bets becomes illegal. And I am, I said, ordering the PNP — the PNP Chief Albayalde to arrest anybody. And goes also for the military, si Madrigal, to arrest people engaged in gambling activities in connection with the franchises, licenses, concessions granted by the PCS
So it becomes illegal because as of today, all — all of those permits and concessions and whatever are terminated.
Talagang hiningi ninyo. Sinabi ko na nga walang corruption. Hinihingi talaga ninyo, ibigay ko sa inyo.
I have offered, we have offered — government have offered something to tie the people, allowing gambling and maybe it can help in the economic activity because money goes around.
But if you f*** government, that’s something else. Talagang kayo ang naghingi. Ibibigay ko sa inyo.
Thank you for listening."
About the author: RAISSA ROBLES
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.