OFFICIALS from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) assured the public Monday, July 29, that its charity programs will continue despite the stoppage order of President Rodrigo Duterte on all of its gaming activities due to alleged "massive" corruption in the agency.
Duterte, through a Facebook video message on Friday, July 26, was pertaining to activities including lotto, small town lottery (STL), Peryahan ng Bayan and Keno, among others.
PCSO-Davao Del Sur branch manager Elvie Ann Tizon-Uy told SunStar Davao Monday, July 29, that charity operations are still ongoing.
“Padayon mi sa among charity. Wala mi nangundang sa pagtabang. Gaming lang ang naundang (Our charitable works are still ongoing. Only the gaming activities were suspended),” Uy said.
She said Dabawenyos could still avail themselves of PCSO's programs like the Individual Medical Assistance Program (Imap) and At Source and Processing (Asap) through their office in Cabaguio Avenue and at the Malasakit Center in Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC).
Imap is the flagship program of the agency that was institutionalized in 1995 to provide timely and responsive financial assistance to individuals with health-related problems.
Asap, meanwhile, is a point of access to the services of the Imap established through a partnership between PCSO and hospitals that directly provide various medical and other health-related services to clients.
Uy said PCSO catered 951 patients under Imap and 373 patients through Asap from July 1 to 25 this year.
She said the office is still finalizing the data per month.
Meanwhile, she said almost P500,000 is being budgeted for Asap per day while P448,106.89 for Imap.
Despite the stoppage, she said the funds for the charity will not be depleted soonest.
“Daghan mig funds. Daghan man tag budget. Dili man makabalak-an ang pondo sa karon. Naa man tay previous na kita (We have a lot of funds, we also have a budget. We don’t worry about the funds at the moment. We have previous earnings)," she said.
Gaming operations, issued and accredited by PCSO, were the temporary suspension order they received from the President.
“Kato lang sa pagkakaron, wala man siya niingon na permanent, ingon siya nga iyang i konsulta. Iyaha daw'ng i-istorya kauban sa Congress (That’s what it is now, he didn’t say it was permanent, he said that he would consult first, he would talk to Congress)," Uy said.
Meanwhile, lotto and STL owners and operators expressed worries on Duterte's sudden closure, as it has a huge impact to their employees.
STL owner Joseph, not his real name, said he has 700 outlets and nearly 800 employees affected since Duterte ordered the nationwide stoppage of all PCSO gaming activities.
He said majority of his employees’ salaries depended on the revenues from STL.
"Mostly, mga taga-probinsya sila. Diyan (STLs) sila nakakakuha ng pambaon, pang araw-araw. Ang laki ng effect sa mga tauhan ko. Kawawa sila. Umiiyak kasi hindi nila alam san kukuha ng pera (They’re mostly from the province. That’s where they get money for allowance, for their everyday spending. There’s a big effect on my employees. They’re pitiful. They cry because they don’t know where to find money)," Joseph said.
He added that his employees have not yet received benefits because of the unclear duration of the suspension.
“As for now, wala pa (benefits). Kasi, the line is very blurred. Walang nagsabi na total closure. So, how can we give benefits kasi di namin alam kung total stop na ang order ng president or hindi (The finality of the total closure was not yet declared. So, how can we give benefits to them when the total stoppage order of the President is not yet final),” Joseph said.
Currently, his employees are automatically in floating status, since he could not afford to keep his employees.
Enzo, a lotto patron, said he was also surprised by Duterte's order.
He also called the suspension order unfair since most of the anomalies are in the STLs, since it is a legalized-form of grassroots-based lottery of jueteng.
"If ing-ana man lang diay, apilon pud niya ang mga casino sa Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation). Pobre man nuon iyang gitira, pero mga dato, OK ra kaayo (If that's the case, he should have included Pagcor casinos. He is being unfair to the poor while favoring the rich ones)," Enzo said, adding Pagcor had previous malversation of handling revenues.
Winners may claim their prizes despite the suspension of all gaming operations, an official assured.
In a statement Monday, July 29, PCSO general manager Royina Garma said Imap services at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City and all PCSO branch offices nationwide will still be available, unless otherwise instructed.
Holders of winning lotto and Keno tickets may claim their prizes at the PCSO head office, Conservatory Building, Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Garma, however, said they will abide by Duterte's directive to suspend all gaming operations.
“The PCSO supports the decision of our dear President in eradicating corruption and illegal gambling activities. The agency programs, projects and activities are aligned to the objective and goal of our national government,” she added.
A total of 30,284 PCSO gaming outlets have been shut down since Duterte issued the suspension order late Friday, July 26, due to alleged massive corruption in the agency.
Of the total, 20,241 are STL outlets, 6,313 are lotto, 2,762 are Peryahan ng Bayan, and 778 are Keno.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde, who led operations to shut down PCSO gaming outlets on Saturday, July 27, raised the possible resurgence of the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”
“That is a possibility. We are not saying it will happen but it's a possibility na pag-usbong ulit ng illegal numbers game particularly ‘yung jueteng,” he said.
Albayalde said they received intelligence information from two provinces in Central Luzon where jueteng operations have continued despite the suspension of lotto and STL operations.
He said the PNP has yet to arrest anyone involved in the illegal numbers game. (With reports from Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/SunStar Philippines)