By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday told President Rodrigo Duterte to dump his “fire-and-recycle” policy on public officials accused of corruption and questioned why he had to punish ordinary people over the anomalies committed by his officials.
Hontiveros said that based on numerous reports, as of 2018, more than a dozen officials who have been accused of corruption or abuse of public funds were reappointed, retained in another capacity, or promoted within the Duterte government.
“If President Rodrigo Duterte wants to purge corruption out of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), then he should go after his corrupt officials who connive with jueteng operators in using PCSO small town lottery (STL) franchises as fronts for illegal gambling operations,” Hontiveros pointed out in a statement.
“But why shut down the entire multi-billion peso charity operations, including small lotto outlets which are highly regulated by the government?” she asked.
The President, she noted, made abrupt, yet serious allegations against higher officials of the state gaming agency, but has yet to clearly explain these allegations and the deeper issues to the public.
“Why is President Duterte punishing ordinary people for the corruption of his officials? Thousands of our fellow Filipinos rely on the PCSO for financial assistance to cover costly medical expenses; at times these are matters of life and death for many. Many Filipinos also base their employment and livelihood on small lotto operations. Bakit sila dinadamay ng Pangulo sa katiwalian at kasakiman ng mga opisyales niya? (Why did the President have to involve them in the greed and corruption committed by his officials?),” she pointed out.
“Who exactly are involved? What were their violations? How pervasive is the corruption within the PCSO? How are these forms of corruption carried out? And why expose this only now after three years of handling the PCSO?” she emphasized.
Hontiveros also said she would like to know if the President seriously considered the impact of his decision on the national budget, particularly the budget on health.
“How big is the financial fallout? Were all the relevant agencies and budget managers consulted before this ban took place?” she asked.
She said the President seems to be setting double standards especially since he seems to tolerate the Chinese-dominated Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), which resulted in the influx of illegal Chinese workers in the country and even illegal gambling like jueteng.
“I am worried that the President is setting double standards: being heavy-handed against selected local licensed gambling operations such as the PCSO on the one hand, but lax and permissive towards Chinese online gambling and jueteng.
“Ang kaya lang ba ng Pangulo ay magpasara ng mga maliliit na lotto outlets pero walang imik sa Chinese online gambling at jueteng? (Is the President only able to flex his muscles on small lotto outlets but will remain silent on these Chinese online gambling and jueteng?)” she stressed.