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COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Cotabato Mayor Bruce Matabalao ordered the immediate halt of Small-Time Lotteries (STLs) on Monday, March 13, following concerns about threats against local operators in the city.
Matabalao’s announcement was made on Sunday evening due to pressing security concerns that local STL operators received threatening messages.
The mayor’s order was a response to the recommendation of Cotabato City police director Colonel Querubin Manalang.
“The request was submitted by our local police after the shooting incident of an STL operator last February. There is an ongoing investigation,” Matabalao said.
On February 19, a 24-year-old female STL attendant identified as Rizia Mae Pardillo Ycot was killed while attending an STL booth in Malagapas, Barangay Rosary Heights 10, Cotabato City.
“Some groups are threatening our local STL operators,” said Matabalao.
The suspicion was that the threats were either from illegal numbers game operators or extortion groups.
“There are reports that Mrs. Ycot’s killing was connected to illegal STL operations. That’s why we recommended temporarily stopping all operations so we can investigate,” said Manalang.
Matabalao directed the police to start a crackdown and arrest anyone who would continue to operate any numbers game, whether illegal or legally registered, based on his order which took effect on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) arrested on Saturday, March 11, seven alleged collectors of illegal numbers game operations in the city.
The arrest of the suspects – Hamsa Abdullah, Samad Makmod, Abdulhamin Patra, Datual Minalang, Rebecca Minalang, Abdulsatar Usman, and Ricky Saavedra – came after a complaint was filed by the assistant general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
STLs are legal numbers games sanctioned by the PCSO and authorized by the government.
The complaint stemmed from groups attempting to forcibly take over kiosk operations of PCSO-STLs in Cotabato City.
Matabalao said his order is temporary while officials and the police were still addressing some issues regarding the local numbers games in the city. – Rappler.com
Ferdinandh Cabrera is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.