By Argyll Cyrus Geducos, Jel Santos, and Hannah Torregoza
Without naming names, Malacañang said on Tuesday that some local government officials are involved in the corruption and “grand conspiracy” to cheat the government of its shares in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said this was unearthed as the government started its investigation on the supposed massive corruption in the agency’s sanctioned gaming schemes including the Peryahan ng Bayan, Small-Town Lottery (STL), and Keno.
Panelo said President Duterte will name all the personalities involved in due time.
“The President in due time will identify the culprits. Not only officials, but major players and participants of the gaming operations including, perhaps, court persons,” he said.
Panelo also said that there are other personalities like local government officials involved in the corruption and that they will also be named when the time comes.
“There is an ongoing investigation, so let’s just wait for the final result,” Panelo said.
Duterte ordered the suspension of the operations of gaming schemes sanctioned by the PCSO last week due to massive corruption. However, it was announced late Tuesday that the suspension on the operations of Lotto was lifted after finding no anomalies in its operations.
The rest of all gaming operations with franchises, licenses, or permits such as STL, Keno, and Peryahan ng Bayan (PNB) are still suspended pending the investigation of illegal activities and corrupt practices and until the Office of the President evaluates the results of its probe.
“According to the Executive Secretary, the suspension for the lotto operations has been lifted because investigators found no anomalies in the conduct of its operations, its sanctity remained untainted and the regulatory rules have been followed,” Panelo said.
“Franchise holders and operators of lotto outlets may now resume with their operations. The lifting of the suspension of lotto operations takes effect immediately,” he added.
Earlier, Malacañang assured a swift and thorough investigation on the alleged corruption in the PCSO.
Royina Garma, PCSO general manager, said the agency lost around P250 million in Lotto revenues when its operation was halted for four days. Lotto generates an average of P60 million per day.
Of the total revenue of PCSO, 30 percent goes directly to the Charity Fund which provides financial assistance to indigents in dire need of medical help.
Based on the PCSO’s Charter, 55 percent of its revenue is set aside as a prize fund for the payment of prizes, including those for the owners, jockeys of running horses, and sellers of winning tickets; 30 percent is for contributions to the charity fund; and the remaining 15 percent is meant for the operating expenses and capital expenditures of the Office.
PCSO Assistant General Manager Arnel Casas said they cannot provide an estimate to the losses for other games, because the draws and systems of the other games are different and are not definite. “Sometimes, some areas draw twice a day. That’s why we cannot give an estimate.”
Small Town Lottery (STL), Keno, Scratch Tickets, Sweepstakes, and Traditional Games are still nonoperational as changes will be done to them, Garma said.
The PCSO is targeting to finish overhauling the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the other games within two weeks, Garma said.
It is also eyeing to regionalize the STL draw in the country to make it more transparent.
Senators on Wednesday welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to lift the suspension order on lotto outlets licensed by the PCSO.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he concurs with the President’s directive to let lotto outlets resume their operations following his order to suspend all PCSO gaming operations which came as a shock last weekend.
“I’m told Lotto operations are clean. I concur with the President’s move,” Sotto said in a text message.
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said he is thankful over the President’s decision as this means the government can finally implement the Universal Health Care Act and other social programs for the poor.
“Nagpapasalamat tayo sa desisyon ng Pangulo na ipagpatuloy na ang operasyon ng lotto. Wala nang panganib na magkakaaberya ang pagsasatupad ng Universal Health Care Act at iba pang mga programa ng gobyerno para sa ating mga kababayan dahil sa kakulangan ng pondo (We are thankful with the President’s decision’s to resume lotto operations. We can be assured that the implementation of the Universal HealthCare Act and other programs of the government will continue smoothly),” Angara said.
“We are confident the President will deliver on his vow to crack down on corruption within the PCSO in order to plug the leakages and ensure that all funds are being used for the benefit of the Filipino people. Suportado po natin ang Pangulo sa giyera laban sa korapsyon at mga katiwalian sa pamahalaan (We support the President in his war against corruption and other anomalies in government),” Angara stressed.