Duterte vs corruption
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - August 1, 2019 - 12:00am

President Duterte ordered PCSO to stop all gaming schemes, lotto and other gambling activities last Friday due to alleged massive corruption.

In vintage Duterte style, like his war on drugs, the police immediately obeyed and took the lead in closing thousands of lotto outlets. Senator Nancy Binay asked, why the need for dramatic padlocking when the outlets had already been closed earlier?

The propaganda impact, however, was there. Their message -- let all other gambling outlets be warned.

Instilling fear to elicit obedience appears to be the norm now. Who does not want corruption to end? Billions are lost. What should go to the public are instead diverted shamelessly to private pockets. Corruption should and must end. All must join the fight vs corruption.

In classic Duterte style, however, rather than start with investigation and the collection of reliable data about the people, processes and consequences related to what he described as massive corruption, Duterte instead called for all gambling schemes to stop immediately, followed by his police padlocking outlets. Again, without clear evidence to show the public, Duterte declares war vs what he termed as massive corruption at the PCSO. And in characteristic fashion, “the Palace also earlier said that the President will identify in due time the ‘culprits’ in the ‘hydra-headed corruption’ in all gaming activities.”

Will that list include his appointees or will his list include his critics instead?

Without doubt, in many government agencies, corruption is rampant. Eradicating it cannot be done, however, just by verbal declaration or padlocking. Detailed, reliable, confirmed data should clearly show where corruption takes place, how, when, by whom. That reliable data, obtained through valid research and verification, should also include how much public funds were squandered, when, where, how and by whom. With solid evidence, by all means, identify the corrupt and punish them accordingly.

Bayan Muna Rep. Calos Zarate asked, “Why not sack the corrupt officials (Du30’s appointees included) and overhaul PCSO instead of punishing everybody, including the people who rely on PCSO for help for their medical needs?”

In 2018, Bayan Muna filed House Resolution 1599 “which sought to investigate alleged anomalies in the PCSO such as the P9.8 million funds spent for PCSO’s Christmas party at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel on December 19; allocation of only P2 billion for the charity fund; out of P18 billion revenues from STL; only 15-20 percent of the actual revenues were declared by STL operators; and, that 80 percent of these revenues used to pay-off high-ranking PCSO officials; and alleged hiring of PCSO officials’ children as staff and consultants of the agency.”

The public also wants to know if Duterte will investigate and fire his appointee, Sandra Cam, for her alleged P500-million beach resort in Masbate.

Will Duterte also heed the COA report “that as of Dec. 31, 2018, 67 out of the 85 authorized Small-Town Lottery (STL) operators, also referred to as authorized STL agents (ASAs) or authorized agent corporations (AACs), have yet to pay PCSO a total of P4.607 billion in presumptive monthly retail receipts (PMRR)” that “can be utilized for various charitable programs of the PCSO, particularly the individual medical assistance program.”

Will Duterte also immediately order PCSO to “settle the P8.426-billion dividends in arrears due to the national government in compliance with RA 7656?”

Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares, like other Filipinos, hopes that the PCSO closure will not “pave the way for Chinese gambling interests or those close to Malacañang to enter the games and amusement sector.”

Will Duterte seriously and sincerely investigate corruption in PCSO and all other government agencies?

(Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted before the Palace announced Tuesday night that the President has lifted lotto’s suspension.)

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