THERE has been a nationwide crackdown on lotto and STL, courtesy of President Rodrigo Duterte’s prompt order. The reason given behind the stoppage of all gaming operations under the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) is alleged massive corruption.

Malacañang authorities said they will reveal the full list of culprits involved in the corruption chain soon. Heads would definitely roll.

In the meantime, several groups have expressed their concerns on the imminent threat of Mr. Duterte’s directive. The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) claimed that indigents relying on PCSO’s revenues will be gravely affected, especially those seeking medical assistance from the agency. There are at least 1,500 individuals seeking medical assistance from PCSO daily.

It was reported that the PCSO gained around P64 billion in profit last year and 30 percent of this was used for the Individual Medical Assistance Program, a part of the national government’s universal health care (UHC).

Meanwhile, the President’s cabinet secretaries have assured the public that whatever funds that would be lost from PCSO operations can be recovered from the sin taxes. Remember that Mr. Duterte recently asked Congress to pass the expanded tax reform bills and additional excise taxes for tobacco and liquor.

But despite the obvious intention of the national government to totally eradicate the small town lottery and other small gambling activities around the country, there is no denying that such a drastic decision will directly affect tens of thousands of Juan dela Cruzes benefitting from PCSO.

At least four to 10 kubradors and 2 cabos in every barangay are working for STL operators. In Angeles City alone, there are at least 34 barangays while there are at least 504 barangays all over Pampanga. You do the math. For every STL employee, at least four persons are affected as part of a household.

It is not easy to provide livelihood or jobs for those who were economically displaced. The local governments do not have ready employment for the displaced STL workers or employees. Most of the kubradors or bet collectors have been working for years with STL and they put food on the table or send their children to school using the money they earn from this gaming activity.

As many have complained before, the casinos are legal and open to the rich and able. But the national government continues to crack down on small time games, which is the only gaming entertainment left to the poor.

Did the President give this a long thought? We don’t know. But surely, there is a behind-the-curtains agenda on this. He himself said earlier that if he puts an end on the numbers games, people would opt to resort to drug pushing or drug peddling. So why order a complete stop on STL operations now? If there are high-level people involved in corrupting the agency, why close everything? I believe he can order a swift investigation without jeopardizing the common folk and majority of the STL workers.

Or could there be a bigger agenda behind this? Will there be new franchises and franchise owners for STL in the future once it has been resumed? Just asking.

On a lighter note, some folks in the City of San Fernando used the situation to open a new game. Some of the former kubradors have started an “ending number game” just like STL. The game is based on the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) game results. The bettors will place a bet on the possible “ending numbers” of the scheduled game. For example, if the PBA game results are 108-96, the winning numbers would be 8 and 6. Whoever put a bet on the two numbers will win.

Well, Pinoys are indeed resourceful and lively. You cannot really put them down.