CAAC-MRPO and Gambling

So far, no one seems to have gotten in touch with law enforcers to tackle the problem. But some school administrators have undertaken independent investigations, and one of them has learned that at least five groups of syndicates are handling separate operations in one district in Manila alone.

“They (schools and parents) are very scared to be seen as the ones who blew the whistle because this is like the livelihood of syndicates,” says Ang See, who heads the Citizens’ Action Against Crime-Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (CAAC-MRPO).

In fact, aside from Ang See, only a social worker, a clinical psychiatrist, and Education Secretary Edilberto de Jesus agreed to be identified in this series. The rest, including Robert and his parents, requested anonymity or a complete change of their names.

Ang See says at least two of the students that the CAAC-MRPO talked to had their necks squeezed tight while they were being threatened. A school administrator of an elite high school also says that there has been a story going around about a college student who was allegedly killed for trying to put one over the gambling syndicate. The administrator says although there is no evidence that the story is true, it could only have strengthened the resolve of parents not to report cases of students involved in gambling to authorities.

An official of another school recounts that one student’s gambling travails came to the administration’s attention only after her bookie’s “friends” went to the school and harassed the child by tailing her car. Barely in her teens, the high school student had bet and lost more than P900,000 and was receiving death threats because her accumulated debts were due. The collector even paid her a visit at home, accompanied by four men who said they were policemen.

Her school decided to do some sleuthing and found out that the bookie was actually also one of its students, who was in turn connected to bookies based in a university in Manila. It also traced the operation to a gambling syndicate based in Binondo. Nonetheless, the school administrator advised the gambler-student’s parents not to pay the bookie. The official was asked to lay off the case; the bookie was paid in installments.

School officials, parents, and students interviewed for this article say that there is usually one bookie-cum-debt collector per “active” school. The bookie is a student himself, and may have other students under him who act as his runners or his dummies whenever there is a threat of being found out by school authorities. In some schools, the bookies are the varsity players.

Most of the time, the accumulated bets are wagered or forwarded to another bookie until it reaches the “banker,” or the financier. Bookies are often clueless about the identity of the banker since the transactions are done through phone calls.

Bets are placed through the bookie-student’s cell phone, which is usually equipped with GPS (global positioning system) that enables the syndicate to trace the whereabouts of its campus bagman with ease.

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