Wider coverage, higher penalties under anti-gambling law sought

MANILA, (PNA) — A lawmaker has expressed concern over the proliferation of other forms of illegal gambling not covered by Republic Act 9827 like the operation of “sakla” in urban areas.

Rep. Sherwin T. Gatchalian (1st District, Valenzuela City) wants higher penalties imposed on other forms of illegal gambling which “as a social menace, erodes the nation’s basic moral foundations.”

He is author of HB 4661 which seeks to amend RA 9827 entitled “An Act increasing the Penalties for illegal numbers games, amending certain provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1602, and for other purposes.”

“RA 9872 was enacted in 2004 as a response by Congress to the public’s demand for a tougher law against illegal numbers games, particularly jueteng, because it was observed that the weakness of the old anti-gambling law contributed to the continuing proliferation of illegal numbers games,” Gatchalian said.

However, Gatchalian added that the enactment of RA 9827 only increased the penalties for those involved in illegal numbers games while making no changes on the penalties for offenders engaged in other illegal gambling activities as enumerated under PD 1602, as amended.

“The proliferation of other forms of illegal gambling has continued to leave an impression on the public that it is a source of corruption to some public officials and law enforcers,” the author said.

By increasing the penalties of other forms of illegal gambling, it would be indicative of the government’s strong desire to minimize, if not eradicate, illegal gambling in its pursuit of social and economic development, he added.

“Illegal gambling operators would usually conduct sakla during wakes in the guise of raising funds for the bereaved, thus, local government officials and law enforcers are forced to turn a blind eye. They would also argue that sakla is just being conducted as a pastime for the visitors,” the lawmaker said.

Gatchalian, however, stressed that sakla is an illegal gambling activity which has negative effects on society, particularly the young people who are exposed to these illegal activities.

“In many reported cases in Metro Manila, wakes would last for weeks not because people would want to mourn the deceased but because sakla operators need to extend the wake to be able to continue their illegal gambling operations,” Gatchalian lamented.

The author, as provided under HB4661, proposes to delete the phrase “numbers game” and substitute the same with the generic phrase “in any illegal gambling activity” to include other forms of illegal gambling, including sakla.

Penalties, depending on the classification of violations and violators’ involvements as provided for, range from 30 days to 20 years imprisonment.

Likewise, “if the collector, agent, coordinator, controller, supervisor, maintainer, manager, operator, financier or capitalist of any illegal gambling activity is a government employee or public official, whether elected or appointed shall suffer the penalty of 12 years and one day to 20 years and a fine ranging from Php3 million to P5 million and perpetual absolute disqualification from public office.

He also proposed that informer’s reward shall be at least 35 percent of the cash money or articles of value confiscated or forfeited in favor of the government.

Also, the measure proposes that the Department of Interior and Local Governments, the NAPOLCOM and DOJ shall also conduct annual moral recovery and values enhancement seminars for local government officials and law enforcers under their respective jurisdictions.