By Ellson Quismorio
Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 1st district Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. told the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to get tough on small town lottery (STL) operators amid the reported poor remittance of collections with the numbers game.
During Friday morning’s budget hearing of the PCSO before the House Appropriations Committee, Pichay’s fellow Mindanaoan, Misamis Occidental 1st district Rep. Diego Ty, lamented the problem of corruption that has hounded STL operations in his area.
“The reality on the ground (is), 10 percent lang po ng STL ang legal (only 10 percent of STL is legal),” Ty said during his interpellation of PCSO General Manager Royina Garma.
Ty’s colleagues picked up on this and asked the agency to address the problem of STL, which is basically a government-regulated version of jueteng.
“One of our colleagues said that the actual remitted [STL collections] is only 10 percent. So what happened to the 90 percent that was collected by the operators? That’s the reason why the President stopped STL, because of that,” Pichay said.
“My question is, why are you not investigating the operators? Where are they putting the 90 percent?” asked the Deputy Speaker.
According to Pichay, the PCSO should probe the operators one by one and, in case they can’t remit the required collection, be made to renegotiate terms with them.
“(The) 90 percent of collections in the field…where did it go? Are we not investigating that? Because that’s a lot of taxes. It’s not good for the government. We’re losing taxes and you’re losing revenue,” he pointed out.
Last month, President Duterte suspended the PCSO’s Lotto and STL operations due to alleged activities of corruption.
PCSO Chairman Anselmo Simeon Pinili was present during the hearing, but it was Garma who did most of the talking. She said the agency has a guaranteed revenue of P12.6 billion for the first semester of 2019 as far as STL is concerned.
“This is what we should be collecting from agencies based on contract. If we double this, that’s P25.2 billion [for the entire year].”
She said that for 2018, the PCSO spent P9 billion on charity. Pichay said the agency is actually mandated to deliver P13 billion, meaning it fell short of its main function.
Garma further bared that the agency spent significantly more money–some P16.7 billion–in tax payment, causing more solons to shake their heads.
Meanwhile, Garma confirmed to lawmakers that the Palace has indeed lifted the ban on STL as of Thursday night.
However, STL operations have yet to resume since the Office of the President still hasn’t approved the new set of implementing rules and regulations created by the PCSO, Garma said.