SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House Committees on Public Accounts and Games and Amusements chaired by Minority Leader Danilo Suarez and Rep. Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Paranaque City), respectively, resumed on Tuesday their joint hearing on the issues surrounding the operations of the small town lottery (STL) which is under the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Noting the drop in STL sales, Suarez asked if the phenomenon is intentional or not. “STL sales have plummeted. Are these losses demand or supply driven? Are the people veering away from betting on STL? Or are sales grossly underreported so that the PMRR (Presumptive Monthly Retail Receipts) can be negotiated?” asked Suarez.
Suarez said there are reports that STL operations usually begin with high bids then are followed by renegotiations for PMRR after a few months.
“Worse, some (STL operators) operate without paying cash bonds and satisfying requirements. Tell us, why does non-compliance in paying cash bonds and PMRR persist? What has the PCSO done to address these?” Suarez queried.
Suarez emphasized that every uncollected penny translates to a reduction of medical assistance for the poor which is a clear violation of the law and against people’s welfare.
He also expressed concern over the bidding for the PCSO lottery system. “The short bidding timeline puts incumbents in a favorable position, what is the rationale? Why even bother to bid in the first place? We recommend that the products be disaggregated and that the Terms of Reference be revised accordingly,” said Suarez.
Suarez is the principal author of House Resolution 2241 which seeks to investigate the awarding of STL franchises to unqualified operators.
Meanwhile, Tambunting said Republic Act 1169, as amended, mandates the PCSO to hold and conduct charity sweepstakes races, lotteries, and other similar activities, in such frequency and manner, which shall be determined and subject to such rules and regulations as promulgated by the PCSO Board of Directors.
Tambunting said state-run lotteries are imbued with public interest as the revenue raised therefrom shall be used to provide funds for priority health and welfare reforms and programs of the national government to alleviate poverty.
Tambunting said the holding of lotteries and other similar activities poses a challenge not only on revenue generation but also in ensuring accountability and transparency.
“Hence, public officials and government institutions are expected to put in place mechanisms that will protect, preserve and sustain public trust. The committees are duty-bound to look into the existing policies of the PCSO,” Tambunting said.
Suarez reiterated the position of the committees that big lotteries should be operated fully by Filipinos. “I hope that in the Terms of Reference of Business in the bidding of the PCSO, it will be provided that the lotteries are Filipino-owned," he said.
With his vast experience in law enforcement, Rep. Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City) said police authorities can combat illegal “bookies” through police enforcement.
In the case of STL, Acop said several personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) have had a hard time distinguishing who are the legitimate and illegitimate STL employees.
“According to them, they have filed several cases against people who they think are not involved in STL but in bookies,” said Acop.
However, in the prosecutor’s office, Acop said a representative of the STL would go and testify that the persons arrested are their people. The prosecutor would then dismiss the case, he said.
“Our policemen always end up frustrated every time this situation occurs during an arrest. I think the PNP and the PCSO have a standing agreement to help each other. I think they have signed an agreement,” said Acop.
Acop, a retired police general, also said that there is a grey area in the police determination of real and illegitimate STL agents.
PCSO Legal Department Manager Atty. Annaliza Inciong said that as stated in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), almost all the Regional Trial Courts have directed the PCSO to go to arbitration. “There is an arbitral cause which directs parties to resolve their issue in arbitration proceedings,” said Inciong.
PCSO Board Member Sandra Cam said she is always with the rule of law.
Cam said during the time of former PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan, he unilaterally decided to authorize Even Chance Gaming Corporation in Naga City to operate.
“Somebody informed me from the police there, so I made it a point, I was the one who moved for the revocation of that authority. And all of a sudden there was a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Mandaluyong Court,” said Cam.
But she said the Board decided to go with the decision of Balutan. “But it’s very clear on that board resolution that I strongly dissented,” said Cam.
Suarez said the committees will make a recommendation on what should be done to the PCSO and submit the recommendation to the Office of the President.
The panels, despite the sine die adjournment, resumed the briefing by the PCSO on the STL operations and the procurement of Nationwide Online Lottery System (NOLS). /Eddie Galvez, News and Documentation Section-Press and Public Affairs Bureau/ House of Representatives of the Philippines