[Editorials of The Connection] Jueteng’s threat to poll safety



A gruesome shootout (or was it a rubout?) that befell 13 men at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon last Jan. 6 greeted the new year not as a firecracker-related incident, but as a reflection of how Filipino authorities are experiencing difficulties in curbing jueteng.

Photo from this link: http://fruitlets3.rssing.com/chan-3253691/all_p100.html

Photo from this link: http://fruitlets3.rssing.com/chan-3253691/all_p100.html


The Batangas tie-in of this issue was not only because of two Air Force personnel who worked previously at Fernando Air Base, or that Batangas was among the areas of operation of alleged jueteng operator Vic Siman.

Two recent incidents within Batangas province happened as a result of the Atimonan incident. Last Jan. 14, Fernando Morales, alleged to work formerly with Siman, was killed at 1:30 am in San Juan municipality. The Morales family cried foul over the incident, saying that Morales got ambushed by police authorities. But provincial police authorities say Morales fired back after trying to elude arrest. Morales was alleged to be possessing illegal firearms.

Because of that incident, coupled with the Atimonan many police —including Calabarzon police chief James Melad— were relieved by Interior and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas. At the background, the National Bureau of Investigation is currently looking if the Atimonan encounter was a shootout or a rubout.

And in a revelation just last Jan. 16, ABS-CBN reported that a few hours before the Atimonan incident, a lone gunman shot and killed a certain Robinson Magpantay in Talisay municipality. A source said Magpantay was a hitman of alleged Siman jueteng rival the Fajardo group. Magpantay’s mother Amor said that Robinson is being targeted as earlier as October 2012, because allegedly the “other party” thinks that since he knows “a lot,” his head is worth P200,000.

ABS-CBN quoted an anonymous source as saying that the Fajardo group “has encroached into the illegal gambling territory of Siman in Calamba, Laguna, where they have a bookies operation in Barangay Bonggo, Calamaba.”

There’s another Batangas tie-in: The current mayor of Balete municipality, Leovino Hidalgo, denied that he has links with the Siman group.  His name was being dragged into the controversy in a case operational plan proposal of police authorities, called “Coplan Armado,” that tagged Siman and Hidalgo as allegedly two leaders of an illegal gambling and gunrunning syndicate. This proposal, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, was submitted to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, though this operation was turned down due to “limited resources”.

Siman’s alleged jueteng operations have reached Laguna, Quezon and some provinces in the Bicol region. And in previous years, local clergymen have clamored for a stop to jueteng operations.

The incident in Atimonan and the succeeding incidents that followed and surfaced all come at a time when the nation is about to elect or re-elect a (new) set of local leaders. Provincial, city and municipal police officials are also trying to ensure peaceful elections this May, in the wake of a pronouncement from the Philippine National Police that had tagged 889 areas in 15 provinces, including Batangas, are election “hotspots”. These lists of hotspots in Batangas have been reduced from more than 12 to only three.

While the ongoing investigation of the Atimonan shooting incident remains unsure if political leaders are linked to Siman’s jueteng operations or not, at this early this incident might spring forth future incidents linked to jueteng. The fear here is that whether succeeding incidents in Batangas and nearby provinces may link jueteng to the coming elections or not, the local police force has its work cut out.

And there goes the local police force’s declarations —and hopes— that Batangas this May 2013 will be “peaceful”.