PCSO chief insists running STL

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Friday, October 15, 2010


THE Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) told senators Thursday that it is the only agency with the mandate and the experience to handle the Small Town Lottery (STL).

At the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on jueteng, PCSO general manager Ferdinand Rojas II opposed a proposal of turning over the operations of STL to local government units (LGUs).

He said under its charter, the PCSO is the principal agency with "authority to hold and conduct sweepstakes races, lotteries, and other similar activities."

Rojas, who is a lawyer by profession, said running STL is not among the powers given to LGUs.

“In fact, to allow LGUs to handle the operations of STL will be repugnant to the intent of the Constitution and the Local Government code,” he said, quoting a PCSO position paper.

Since PCSO has been operating for 76 years, it has gained the expertise and support network to run the STL and other lottery games.

The PCSO has 25 Provincial District Offices and 1,800 lotto agents that can receive bets through telephone and Internet connections.

Rojas said the sweepstakes office has "sufficient regulatory mechanisms, security features, and safeguards that do not allow room for errors, much less manipulation".

He believed localizing STL would expose it to being used as a political tool because it will unjustifiably increase the local executive's influence and power.

Rojas also protested on shutting down STL, saying it has earned P8.4 billion since it was launched as an alternative to jueteng in 2006.

In a privilege speech last September, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said jueteng draws are rigged, a claim that has come up often in the past hearings.

New STL scheme

The PCSO has drafted new strategies to make the STL more competitive against jueteng.

From the original Pick-2 and Pick-3 games where bettors choose numbers from 1-40, the new STL will be 1-37, which gives them a higher probability of winning.

STL tickets will also be printed on security paper to make them harder to fake and give bettors confidence that they will not be cheated of their winnings.

The new STL will feature a game design even better than illegal numbers games and offers bigger prizes to winners, Rojas said.

Rojas said letting the PCSO operate the STL will eventually eliminate clandestine operations prevalently undertaken by illegal gambling lords.

But former Pampanga governor Eduardo Panlilio, who was invited as a resource speaker, said the new STL could just as easily be subverted by jueteng syndicates.

He said jueteng operating under the cover of STL earns P30 billion a year, money that comes from the pockets of the poor who are the target market of the illegal numbers game.

Panlilio suggested that the PCSO focuses on lotto and just give local governments a portion of its revenues.

He said this would be a more pro-poor form of gambling because at least part of the money will go back to the municipal and barangay levels.

He further said giving LGUs will eliminate the political power held by jueteng lords, which senators call a threat to national security.

Panlilio noted that the lotto revenues would let local politicians put up projects and programs that will get them support from constituents without relying on jueteng money. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

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