This question was raised by a House leader three months after the resumption of STL operations, following a month-long suspension order by President Duterte himself due to reported massive corruption.
Michael Varcas/File
Disclosure of DOJ, NBI report on STL corruption sought
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - November 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Whatever happened to the investigation on small-town lottery (STL) operations of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO)? 

This question was raised by a House leader three months after the resumption of STL operations, following a month-long suspension order by President Duterte himself due to reported massive corruption.

Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. took to task investigating agencies, particularly the Department of Justice and National Bureau of Investigation, to reveal their findings on corruption in the PCSO that broke during the term of sacked general manager Alexander Balutan.

“Were there charges filed against those found liable? Did they investigate the STL operators?” Pichay asked.

He had earlier revealed that some P225 billion in funds were being lost annually due to illegal STL operations supposedly since only 10 percent of STL operations are legal.

He asked probers to look into PCSO’s collections as well as the remittance of each STL operator, reminding them of the reason why Duterte suspended operations in July.

“Where did the 90 percent of collections in the field go? Did they investigate that? Because that’s a lot of taxes. It’s not good for the government. We’re losing taxes and you’re losing revenue,” Pichay lamented.

A Commission on Audit report showed that the PCSO had registered shortfall in STL collections of P4 billion from 2017 to 2018 due to under-remittances of STL outlets.

Pichay said they would call for a review of actions taken by the PCSO under its chair, retired police general Anselmo Simeon Patrol Pinili, to determine if necessary measures were taken to address corruption in STL.

The PCSO, under new general manager Royina Garma, has started tightening implementing rules for STL and instituted reforms to improve the collection of the agency and raise more funds that will be used for the government’s Universal Health Care and other charity programs.

Lawmakers have earlier urged PCSO plan to expand operations of other games like Peryahan ng Bayan (PNB) and Keno so the PCSO will be able to collect more revenue nationwide.

They said breaking the monopoly in Lotto and STL games will lessen the corruption in the gaming industry.

Industry sources have questioned PCSO’s policy favoring STL over other gaming operations like PNB, which has 501 point-of-sale terminals in the country and could raise P100 billion in annual revenue. 

“What’s with the preferential treatment of PCSO for STL over other games like PNB? What benefits do they get from STL when there’s report of corruption and under-remittance worth billions of pesos that could have benefited the government and our health sector?” an operator told The STAR. 

Pagcor, PCSO accord

Meanwhile, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has struck a cooperation agreement with the PCSO to address the problem of fraudulent claims or requests for financial medical assistance.

Andrea Domingo, Pagcor chairman, said stronger cooperation with PCSO will effectively adress the problem, especially with Pagcor resuming today its acceptance of walk-in requests for financial medical assistance.

Pagcor announced on Wednesday they would temporarily stop accommodating requests for financial aid up to Friday due to a reported fraud committed by a couple who submitted fake documents for fictitious medical cases. 

While Pagcor is set to pursue legal action against the couple, they have been released for humanitarian considerations.

Pagcor will resume accepting medical assistance requests that will first be endorsed to PCSO for verification. PCSO will confirm whether a request has been issued a guarantee letter. – With Rainier Allan Ronda

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