PNP: Over 23,000 lotto, PCSO gaming outlets now closed
Rosette Adel ( - July 28, 2019 - 6:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police shut down more than 23,000 gaming outlets of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office following the order of President Rodrigo Duterte.

As of Sunday, 23,654 outlets were closed nationwide. Of these, 7,768 are lotto outlets; 13,320 are small-town lottery kiosks; 2,194 are Peryahan ng Bayan outlets; and 472 are Keno shops.

Late Friday, Duterte said he is ordering the “the closure, the stoppage of all gaming schemes of whatever nature, however done, that got their franchises to do so from the PCSO.”

He cited massive corruption in the PCSO for his directive.

“The order is grounded on the preservation of the resources of the nation,” Duterte said.

The president gave the law enforcers only 24 hours to serve the closure orders to all the PCSO outlets nationwide. The order took effect Saturday.

PNP also warns arrest of bettors, gambling operators

PNP chief Oscar Albayalde heeded the order of Duterte and directed all regional police offices “to launch a massive crackdown against illegal gambling and arrest anyone who will continue to engage in illegal acts.”

Albayalde also led the closure of some outlets in Baguio City on Saturday.

“Those businesses that continue to operate in connection with the franchises, licenses, concessions granted by the PCSO are hereby warned to cease and desist from engaging business, following the provisions stipulated in their franchises or face consequences under existing laws,” Albayalde said.

“We encourage the public to report to the police any suspected illegal gambling activity in their communities,” he added.

National Capital Region Police Office director Guillermo Eleazar, who also personally inspected lottery outlets and implemented Duterte’s order, also warned the public of arrests.

On Saturday morning, opertatives of the Regional Special Operations Unit nabbed five male persons while in the act of collecting bets for Small Town Lottery operations in Quezon City.

The authorities recovered from the suspects several STL bet receipts with written numerical figures; seven pieces of ball pens; four sling bags; three identification cards issued by Great Platinum Gaming Online Inc. bearing the names of Arnold Vargas, Thelmo Comia and Robert O Palas; and bet collection money with an aggregate amount of P1,602 in different denominations.

The arrested suspects would face criminal complaints for violating Presidential Decree 1602 as amended by Republic Act 9287 or Illegal Numbers Game/Jueteng.

“Our chief executive has said for us to implement or to do these arrest orders so we just implemented this,” Eleazar said Saturday.

The PCSO, for its part, also announced suspension of all gaming activities. It said it would appeal for the resumption of the gaming activities before the Office of the President for the interest of the PCSO, its agents and beneficiaries.

‘Duterte authorized to suspend gaming ops’

The law enforcers and the PCSO followed Duterte’s directive amid the absence of an official executive order.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo defended Duterte’s move saying the order should be implemented immediately.

“Forthcoming yun, pero kahit naman na walang executive order, puwede na yun. Immediately kailangan kasing ienforce yun eh,” Panelo was quoted in a radio interview on Sunday.

(That’s forthcoming but even without an executive order, it’s allowed. It should be enforced immediately)

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also said the president has the authority to suspend the betting formats.

“Yes, the president has the authority to order the suspension, even the termination, of PCSO-licensed gaming operations upon prima facie proof that licensees are not faithfully complying with their legal obligation to remit the correct amount of the government's share in revenues, or that their operations are tainted by fraud, deceit, or corruption,” Guevarra told the reporters.

“It should be emphasized that a gaming license is not a contractual right but a mere privilege that may be revoked at any time by the state,” he added.

Guevarra stressed that the president is allowed to suspend the gaming activities of PCSO as an exercise of police power.

“The president may order the suspension of operations based on preliminary information available to him, much like a judicial restraining order, but even more powerful, because it emanates from a constitutional duty to faithfully execute our laws, if not from the inherent police power of the state,” he reiterated.

The justice secretary also clarified that Duterte’s order is not similar to the suspension of the entire PCSO charter.

“The PCSO has other sources of revenue apart from its gaming operations and it will continue to perform its mandate, albeit with limited resources,” the justice secretary said.

Corruption probe vs PCSO underway

Guevarra said he ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the supposed corruption in PCSO.

“The investigation that I have ordered is precisely an opportunity where the PCSO and its licensees may come forward and show that there's no such corruption or fraud involved in their operations,” he said.

PCSO is one of the agencies tapped to fund the Universal Health Care Act which Duterte signed into law last February.

The Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation, however, said Duterte’s ban on gaming activities does not cover its licensees and casino.

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