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PCSO: Lower lotto documentary stamp tax

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
PCSO: Lower lotto documentary stamp tax
PCSO chairman Junie Cua lamented that the DST on lotto tickets under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN Law has limited the agency’s capacity to fund the health care program for 110 million Filipinos.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — A substantial reduction in the documentary stamp tax (DST) on lotto tickets from 20 to five percent will go a long way in enabling the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to fund the government’s Universal Health Care program.

PCSO chairman Junie Cua lamented that the DST on lotto tickets under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN Law has limited the agency’s capacity to fund the health care program for 110 million Filipinos.

“Increased DST has practically paralyzed the agency. This DST, as of latest count and estimates, would reach to about P11 billion for 2023,” Cua told the House appropriations committee during a budget hearing yesterday.

“We are calling on Congress to reduce it to five percent so we will be at par with the tax levied on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. PAGCOR is only levied five percent DST and yet, it does not have the mandate required of us,” Cua said, comparing PCSO and PAGCOR’s tax obligations.

He complained that DST expenses reduced PCSO’s budget for medical access program by about P7 billion.

Since the DST was increased in 2019, PCSO’s medical access program was only able to provide P5.9 billion in assistance to 517,696 people in 2019 and P1.8 billion for 250,850 beneficiaries in 2020, Cua said.

He said these figures were lower than PCSO’s medical access program fund of P8.6 billion, which benefitted 528,190 people in 2018.

PCSO’s medical access program released a slightly increased amount of assistance worth P2.1 billion in 2021, which benefitted 272,130 people.

For 2022, it has so far released P850 million for 110,403 recipients.

Cua presented data showing PCSO’s charity fund paid P7.8 billion in DST expenses alone in 2021, way below the allocation for its medical access program that only stood at P2.8 billion.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City opposed a proposal of the PCSO to introduce online lotto, saying it will destroy the morality of the youth.

Rodriguez, chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, made the statement during a hearing on PCSO’s budget.

“Let us not make gambling easily available to our youth by making it online. Even children who have mobile phones will be able to access it. Let us stay as is, let us keep the status quo,” Rodriguez said. “We in government are the custodians of the morality of our youth.”

Rodriguez appealed to Cua and his fellow lawmakers not to do on the youth what e-sabong or online sabong has done to the people.

Some 26 or so people have reportedly been kidnapped in connection with e-sabong. They remain missing to this day.

Rodriguez also objected to a plan to earmark or divert PCSO’s income to other purposes.

“Congress has been giving away PCSO funds to activities unrelated to the agency’s mandate, which is to finance charity projects and health services. Let us review all of these laws and repeal those that are no longer necessary,” he said.

Cua expressed support for Rodriguez’s suggestion, saying he wants a rationalization of all earmarking laws passed by Congress.

He said the PCSO is giving funds to so many agencies and organizations, eroding its income intended for charity and health services.

As this developed, House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto stressed the need for the government to “reform” the alleged graft-ridden Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), which he described as the “twin” of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) due to lingering corruption issues.

Recent reports of the Commission on Audit for 2021 placed at P14.9 billion the funds described by government auditors as being held by PITC “in trust for government agencies for the procurement of various items.”

Recto said the PITC, which is under the Department of Trade and Industry, should go back to its original mandate as a state international trading arm, undertaking countertrade or importing essential goods for mass distribution by the government such as medicine and fertilizer.

Given “tens of billions of money by hundreds of government agencies,” the PITC has failed to deliver on time the goods, equipment and infrastructure it was contracted to procure “for a fee,” Recto said.

By end of 2019, the PITC had undelivered orders or unreturned advances valued at P33.2 billion from 79 government transactions.

In 2020, the backlog value slightly went down to P31.5 billion, involving 61 contracts.

Five top agencies with “parked funds” at the PITC have pending orders worth more than P1 billion each, Recto said.

These are the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) with 2.66 billion; Philippine Army, P2.23 billion; Department of Information and Communications Technology, P2.19 billion; Bureau of Customs, P1.33 billion and Department of Health, P1.19 billion.

Other agencies with unpurchased items worth more than P500 million are the Philippine Navy, P947 million; TESDA, P783 million; UP-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), P687 million and Philippine National Police, P507 million.

“Based on the mandate of the requesting agencies, you can surmise that these are essential goods such as medical equipment for UP-PGH and DOH, or fire prevention equipment or building for the BFP,” Recto said.

More funds

Workers want bigger appropriations in the 2023 national budget for their benefits and other needs.

The All Workers Unity (AWU), a coalition of labor groups, said the government should give importance to workers and provide a sufficient budget to address their demands.

In a statement, AWU said they are ready to take necessary actions to press their demands for decent jobs and sufficient wage, among others.

It said the Marcos government is clearly not prioritizing programs that would help improve the lives of workers.

Budget allocation for the creation of jobs and assistance for workers is lacking, the group said, noting that under the proposed 2023 national budget, the Department of Labor and Employment is only given P26.23 billion and the Department of Migrant Workers P41.44 billion.

With all their sacrifices, AWU said, workers should be treated as heroes and provided rightful wages and benefits. – Mayen Jaymalin

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