No less than a city police chief has admitted that the proliferation of sakla, a card game usually played during wakes and considered a form of illegal gambling, is partly due to some law enforcers turning a blind eye on it.
“Hindi ko po itinatanggi ito: kung minsan nagkocoordinatepo sila sa pinakamalapit na community precinct at nagpapaabiso, ‘Sir, meron po kaming pa-sakla,’ or any law enforcement agency for that matter (I am not denying this: sometimes, sakla operators would would get in touch with the nearest police community precinct – or any law enforcement agency − and tell a police officer, “Sir, we are holding sakla at this place”),” said Senior Superintendent Rhoderick Armamento, chief of Valenzuela City Police Station, during the Anti-Illegal Gambling Summit at the Valenzuela City Astrodome on Saturday, February 21.
Officials of the city government, barangays and police met with representatives of homeowner’s associations, churches and socio-civic organizations to seek the latter’s support for a crackdown on illegal gambling.
Sakla is among the most common illegal gambling activities in the city, along with tupada (cockfighting), video karera, and mah-jong, the city police has reported.
Despite prohibition by the law, sakla persists in the city mainly because the family themselves allow it in the dead’s wake, said Armamento. The card game is traditionally played by grieving family and friends to keep them entertained during the vigil and to raise money to cover costs of the burial.
Armamento said barangay officials and police officers would also know about sakla games in communities but would keep from apprehending the organizers and players.
The Local Government Code of 1991 granting mayors the authority to suspend errant police officers, Mayor REX Gatchalian said he will not spare any police bloc commander allowing sakla and other forms of illegal gambling within his or her area of responsibility.
“Pag isa sa amin makakita ng saklaan sa area of responsibility ng bloc commanders, ako pa mismo ang tatawag sa inyo at walang tanong-tanong, ako pa ang magsususpend sa mga bloc commander (Once one of us mayor, vice mayor and councilors chance upon sakla in a wake, I will call the police bloc commander of the area and fire him or her myself right away),” Mayor REX said.
“I intend to use the full power of my office to eradicate illegal gambling in the city,” the local chief executive added.
Task Force on Illegal Gambling
The city government has also created the Task Force on Illegal Gambling in Valenzuela to monitor illegal gambling in the city and recommend measures to the city mayor. It is headed by the city mayor as chairman, with Councilor Ramon Encarnacion, President of the Association of Barangay Captains, as action officer.
Under the Presidential Decree 1602, the most lenient sanction for engaging in illegal gambling is prision correcional in its medium period, or a imprisonment within the range of six months and one year, and a fine of P400 to P2000. Government officials who act as maintainer of gambling schemes are meted out a penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period, or imprisonment for 12 years, and a fine of six thousand pesos.
Republic Act 9297, on the other hand, prescribes a minimum punishment of a 30-day imprisonment to those taking part in illegal numbers, such as jueteng, masiao, and last two. Government officials who run such games are meted out imprisonment ranging from 12 years and 1 day to 20 years and fine of PhP3 million to PhP5 million.
Mayor REX said illegal gambling activities held in broad daylight risk attracting players among the youth, adding that gambling and drugs are the “agents of corruption” that undermine the family.
“[Sakla] is a big elephant in the room, na lahat tayo, lagi natin siyang nakikita, pero nasanay na tayo na huwag na siyang sitahin (Sakla is a big elephant in the room – something we see all the time but we’ve learned to ignore),” said Mayor REX.
Bigger burial cash assistance
Besides heightening law enforcement and encouraging vigilance among citizens, the city government is also increasing its financial assistance to grieving families to deter sakla.
Starting March 1, the P3,000 for the surviving families of non-senior citizens will become P5,000. On the other hand, P2,000 will be added to the current P5,000 for the burial of senior citizens.
Incidents of illegal gambling in Valenzuela City may be reported to the Task Force on Illegal Gambling at these numbers: 352-1000 local 1616, 0943-1321110.