MANILA –The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) on Wednesday said it will continue to implement Small Town Lottery (STL) despite the allegation of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that it is illegal.
PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan said they respected the opinion of the House Speaker but stressed that the PCSO was under the office of the President and was following the request of the President to end illegal gambling operations in all its forms.
“We respect the opinion of House Speaker Alvarez, but we request that he reconsider whose side he’s on: the Filipino people who will benefit from the government’s increase in charity services and the opportunity to provide employment, or the illegal gambling operators and those who coddle them. ” Balutan said. “Stopping STL only favors gambling lords and their ilk,” he added.
Balutan clarified that the PCSO took guidance and direction from the President who had been clear from the very beginning of his intention to eliminate illegal gambling operations and curb corruption.
And true to his word, last Feb 2, the President signed Executive Order (EO) No.13, which strengthens state-run agencies like PCSO and its promotion of STL as the only legal numbers game in the country.
Balutan explains that PCSO’s enabling law (RA 1169, as amended) will prevail in so far as state-run lotteries are concerned. This law is among those which EO 13 aims to implement and protect. EO 13 is an executive issuance to honor PCSO’s charter mandate.
During the congressional hearing on Monday, when asked about the ramifications if the STL operations would be suspended, PCSO Chairman Jorge Corpuz pointed to the loss of revenue. He mentioned that through the expanded STL, the PCSO has been able to collect in the last quarter of 2016, Php 6.46 billion.
A far cry from the Php 4.7 billion collected for the whole of 2015. The government is poised to lose almost Php 28 billion in revenue if STL operations come to a halt. The loss translates to billions of funds for the government’s charity services and free medicines for the poor.
But the expanded STL not only contributes to an increase in government revenue, but is also instrumental in providing employment or an alternative livelihood to people who need it most. As of 2016, PCSO records show that the 18 AACs have provided jobs for almost 173,000 former kubradors and kabos. If the committee pursues to cease the operation of the 56 AACs, it would mean denying .5 million Filipinos to secure employment.
Balutan shares that the loss of employment is also a concern of committee member Congressman Danilo Suarez. According to Balutan, Suarez expressed serious concern for about 19,000 kabos and kubradors that will lose jobs in his native Quezon once STL stops operation. Balutan addsthat Suarez is trying to reach Speaker Alvarez to reconsider his decision.
“I told him to help us since this might boomerang because thousands will be adversely affected, particularly the poor, whose welfare the government seeks to uplift and address.
On Monday, in response to EO 13, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa acknowledged in his statement the effort of the PCSO in successfully establishing the government-operated STL in different parts of the country as an effective way tokeep illegal gambling operators out of the country.
PNP Chief Dela Rosa also acknowledged in his statement that illegal gambling, if left unchecked, breeds corruption and other ills in society.