COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 13 March) – Cotabato City Mayor Bruce Matabalao has ordered the suspension of small town lottery (STL) operations in the city starting today, Monday, due to alleged security threats facing local operators.
In a directive posted at his Facebook page Sunday night, Matabalao said he issued the order upon the request of Colonel Querubin Manalang, city police director.
“The request was submitted by our local police after the shooting incident of an STL operator last February. There is an ongoing investigation,” the mayor said.
Last February 19, Rizia Mae Pardillo Ycot, 24, an STL attendant in Malagapas, Barangay Rosary Heights 10, was killed while tending the gambling booth.
“Some groups are threatening our local STL operators,” Matabalao said.
However, it was not clear if the threats came from illegal numbers game operators or just plain extortionists.
Matabalao ordered the police to arrest licensed gambling operators who will not follow the stoppage order.
He also asked law enforcers to intensify the campaign against illegal gambling operations in the city.
In a related development, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CIDG-BARMM) has arrested seven collectors of illegal STL operations here.
In a statement, the CIDG-BARMM identified the suspects as Hamsa Abdullah, Samad Makmod, Abdulhamin Patra, Datual Minalang, Rebecca Minalang, Abdulsatar Usman and Ricky Saavedra.
The arrest was made Saturday after a complaint filed by the local office of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), which sanctions STL operations.
The complaint stemmed from reports that certain quarters allegedly wanted to forcibly take over the PCSO-licensed STL operations in the city.
Matabalao said the suspension order could be lifted once authorities fix the issues involving the STL operations in the locality. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)