PCSO publicity funds may have been used for 2010 polls-A A +A
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
A JUMP in public relations spending by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) in the first months of 2010 may have been used for the national elections, Senator Franklin Drilon said Monday.
At a Senate investigation on alleged misuse of PCSO funds, PCSO board member Aleta Tolentino said spending from January to June 2010 dwarfed spending for 2009.
She said the PCSO spent P1.1 billion in public relations (PR) funds against a total of P700 million for the previous year. PR spending for the rest of 2010 was at a much lower P115 million, Tolentino added.
Drilon said this was suspicious because it mirrored a similar spike in the PCSO's spending of intelligence funds in 2010.
At hearings last week, it was revealed that P150 million in intelligence fund was released to the PCSO. Only P14 million was left when the new PCSO board took over.
From 2005 to 2010, the PCSO spent a total of P7.2 billion on ad placements, a television show hosted by former PCSO board member Manoling Morato, and television dramas about sweepstakes and lotto winners, Tolentino said.
Former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte declined to explain the spending, saying she might incriminate herself in plunder cases already filed against her.
Pressed to cite policies that would explain the jump in spending, she said she could not remember.
Drilon also pressed her on a check for P20 million that she encashed in December 2009. Uriarte said the money had been used for "relief operations" but did not go into detail.
Drilon said the PCSO should not be spending so much on advertising and publicity. This was a view shared by current PCSO general manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas II who said people will still bet on the lotto, "what's important [is] that the results are published."
He added PCSO must also spend to broadcast the lotto draws on live TV.
He said the current PCSO board has already slashed its PR budget to P550 million from P975 million. He said they will also ask for a smaller publicity budget in 2012.
Senators also zeroed in on around P30 million to P33 million that the PCSO spent to bankroll "Dial M," a weekly television show hosted by former PCSO board member Manoling Morato and actress Maggie Dela Riva.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada noted that the show suffered low ratings and that the money would have been better spent on charity work.
Morato was also criticized for saying he used the show to endorse administration candidate and former Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. in the 2010 elections. He said that since he was not a paid talent for the show, he was free to say anything he wanted.
But Estrada said PCSO funds should not have been used for politicking.
Drilon said the Commission on Elections and the Justice department should check whether Morato violated the Revised Election Code.
"He was the co-host of the program and he campaigned for the administration candidate. It's clear to use that that was electioneering," he said.
"I was forced to host that show," was Morato's defense. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)