GAMBLING addicts in the Philippines, watch out. President Rodrigo Duterte has just ordered local enforcers to crack the whip on illegal gambling.
According to reports on Friday, the president on Feb 2 issued Executive Order (EO) 13, directing the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies to intensify their crackdown on the activity.
The order condemns illegal gambling as a widespread “social menace” and a source of corruption, also claiming that it has become an influential factor in an individual’s “disregard for the value of dignified work, perseverance and thrift.”
Apart from the PNP and law enforcers, other concerned agencies urged to coordinate in implementing the order include the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Information and Communications Technology.
“The same law enforcement agencies are further directed to coordinate and promptly act on requests of gambling regulatory authorities to investigate and put a stop to illegal gambling activities in their respective jurisdictions,” says a copy of the order posted on Rappler.
The president, in signing the order, acknowledged there has been confusion with regards to the jurisdiction and scope of authority of the country’s different gambling regulators and that the uncertainty is to blame for the proliferation of the activity in the Philippines.
The order also defines the offence, saying a person is deemed involved in “illegal gambling” if he or she directly or indirectly takes part in any game scheme not authorised by the government where winning is dependent on chance or skill or both, and which involves wagers like money or articles of value.
The order also covers the offence of “online gaming”, which is committed when a licensed gaming operator allows persons outside the Philippines to participate in its games, whether or not it is done online or via other means.
“The license to operate online gambling granted to qualified operators shall not be assigned, shared, leased, transferred, sold or encumbered to any other party,” the order adds.
It also says that representative appointed to act for the president will be given full oversight function in the implementation of the order and that whenever necessary, the representative shall recommend to the president rules and regulations to suppress illegal gambling as well as to improve government effort to raise revenue from legitimate activities. The representative is to do this in coordination with all agencies involved in enforcing the order.
Other agencies such as the Immigration Bureau, customs and the Internal Revenue Bureau among others are directed in the order to lend their full cooperation to the office of the president and his representative in the matter.
The signing of the order comes as no surprise. In August last year, PNP director-general Ronald dela Rosa reportedly said after the nationwide crackdown on drugs, local security forces would declare war on illegal gambling.
According to the Rappler report, the police chief had said on Aug 11: “You just wait. After six months, if we win our campaign against illegal drugs, we will shift our efforts. We’ll hit illegal gambling.”
In November, however, Duterte said the government would put a pause on this ambition due to a lack of manpower, with much of the country’s security forces focused on the war on drugs.
In December, he ordered the closure of all online gambling firms, saying the government has not been able to generate revenue through taxes from bets collected from players outside the country.
Duterte, who won the Philippine presidency last year on an anti-crime platform, has since coming to power waged a violent war on the country’s drug criminals.
To date, more than 7,000 drug suspects have been killed, some at the hands of local police and many others allegedly by vigilante groups fueled by the president’s crime-fighting methods.
His campaign has caused alarm in the West, with rights groups accusing Duterte of turning a blind eye to a wave of extrajudicial killings by police, mostly of low-level peddlers.
Earlier this week, Duterte turned his attention on tax evaders, warning in a chilling message that he would kill those who fail to pay their dues to the government.
“You pay your taxes and pay it correctly because we need it to run government,” he told a group of attendees comprising business leaders at the function.