Anak ng Hue’!!

Or, is it “Anak ng Jue!” Is it Jueteng or Hueteng?  I remember reading Jueteng which probably betrays the historical origin of that forbidden but extremely lucrative game of chance. The letter J is pronounced as an H if found before a vowel, in Spanish style. Later it became an H when the National Language Commission decreed that J did not exist in our pre-Spanish languages. Anyway, whether J or H, I want to know what happened to Jueteng, no one talks about it anymore. Has it become a thing of the past?

Jueteng used to be the root of everything evil in our society. This popular, commonplace game of chance was rumored to corrupt everyone and anyone that held even a modicum of state power.  From the lowliest tanod, to head of barangay, to mayor and vice-mayor, councilors, governors, congressmen, senators, perhaps even fiscals, judges, and justices,  to the president of the Republic – everyone was tainted with Jueteng money. The Jueteng Lords, mostly faceless, were formidable characters to contend with, only they could make or break political careers, only they could institute and bolster or cause the downfall and disappearance of unsinkable political dynasties.

No one was exempt from its intoxicating web, not the police nor the military, even the Catholic Church and other denominations and cults were supposed to have been in the Jueteng payroll or the Jueting list of beneficiaries. Jueteng caused the impeachment and downfall of President Joseph Estrada although he had been elected by an unprecedented landslide. There were rumors that not only his popularity with the masses swept him to power, it was also Jueteng money. Strangely eough, he wanted to eradicate jueteng because it was considered illegal and corrosive, but was in a quandary because, according to him, his own grandma used to indulge in Jueteng. It was not only for idle señoras, it was for humble folk.

I have never seen it played but I heard there is a series of numbers, say 1 to 36, and you can bet 10 pesos or even lower on your own combination of  two numbers. However, the “cabos” decide which number combinations win and they always choose the one with the lowest number of bettors so they can distribute the booty to the hierarchy I mentioned above. There are as many as 3 draws in a day and everyone is happy because if you bet a peso, you can win as much  2. Once I heard that a high society lady I happened to know was a jueteng financier of a province she had never even visited. Needless to say, I never dared ask her about it.

When I was at the Department of Tourism, one of the undersecretaries  was hand-picked by Pres. Estrada, but he was profoundly unhappy because he had expected to be DOT secretary, the position that was given to me.  Daily he would complain that his salary was too low and that I should make him handle the intelligence fund, which no longer existed by that time. He was in charge of our regional tourism offices but hated going around with me to attend all those laborious meetings with town councils and provincial boards.  Suddenly,  after a few months, he was no longer complaining and it was because his wife was hired by a powerful government official from the North.

During the impeachment trial of Pres. Estrada, the couple ( Rusty and Yoly) were summoned to kilometric hearings and investigations, and to make a long and circuitous story short, Yoly was accused of being the accountant of that jueteng lord from the North. Poor  Yoly, she was such a timid and soft-spoken woman, she did not fathom the mess they were in. She had to be pushed into the Senate chamber in a wheelchair and was attached to an IV carried by a nurse. She called the jueteng records a “listahan”and denied the list of  funny pseudonyms she gave everyone in that fatal roster. Rusty and Yoly disappeared, or were allowed to do so after Pres. Joseph Estrada was overthrown my his own vice-president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. After that a Kapampangan priest who ran for governor in his province won the elections, but his life was made impossible by the jueteng lords  he had, momentarily, defeated.

After all those tumultuous events that corroded the political, economic, and social life of this country, no one hears of jueteng (or hueteng ) anymore. Does it still exist under another name? Or has something more addictive and deadly taken in place?