House leaders question STL, ask PCSO to revisit charter

In a hearing called to investigate the proliferation of illegal gambling and the use of small town lottery (STL) as front for illegal gambling, House leaders led by Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez asked officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to revisit their charter and warned them to stop practices that are not legally part of their mandate.

“What you are doing is illegal. Congress is the one which gave you your charter. Stop what you are doing unless you want Congress to file a case against you in the Ombudsman for doing things you are not authorized to do,” said the Speaker during this week’s hearing of the House committee on games and amusements.

The Speaker reminded PCSO officials that entering into agreements with local operators is not part of the charter which Congress gave them.

The issue stemmed from three House resolutions which were referred to the committee chaired by Rep. Gus S. Tambunting (2nd District, Parañaque City), namely : House Resolution 546 authored by Minority Leader and Quezon Third District Rep. Danilo E. Suarez, seeking an inquiry into the proliferation of illegal gambling; and HR 712 filed by Rep. Jesulito A. Manalo (Party-list, Angkla) and HR 715 by Rep. Rodel M. Batocabe (Party-list, Ako Bicol), both seeking an inquiry into the alleged failure of the small town lottery (STL) operations of the PCSO in generating its projected income, resulting in the loss of billions of pesos in revenues on the part of the national government, and the use of STL operations as fronts for jueteng and other illegal numbers game in the country
The Speaker told the officials that based on the PCSO charter, the agency has no authority to issue any license, franchise or enter into agreements or partner with “agents.” He further said the PCSO charter clearly states it is their sole responsibility to directly operate the national lottery.

“Wag na tayo magbolahan. Naghahanap lang kayo ng justification para sa jueteng. Kaya nga kontrolado yung binibigyan niyo ng partnership, tapos ngayon meron pa kayong ‘right to match’. (Let’s not kid each other. You are just trying to justify jueteng. This is why you are controlling who you partner with, and now you have what you call ‘right to match’),” said the Speaker.

Alvarez said the right to match is under the unsolicited proposal of the build-operate-transfer (BOT) law, and not in the PCSO system.

Tambunting agreed that the right to match clause is detrimental to the government. He said the House will exercise its oversight over the agency, especially on the right to match issue, and pursue cases against those involved.

PCSO Chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz explained the system was already in place when they took over the agency. He said they are also tasked to produce revenue for the government.

Moreover, Corpuz said they have already issued additional contracts to new authorized agent corporations (AAC) which have already paid the government. He said the government stands to lose more if the operations will be abruptly put to halt.

The Speaker, however, debunked this. “Your mandate authorizes you to do national lotteries, not provincial nor local. I suggest you cancel all contracts issued and return the money to your ‘partners’ and concentrate on your mandate.

Payments in terms of billions of pesos will never legalize what is illegal,” he said.

Suarez also agreed with the Speaker’s observation and suggested a technical working group be organized to come up with solutions and legislative initiatives that could address two important concerns: employment and government revenues; and transparency.

As an exercise of the committee’s oversight function, Tambunting and several committee members compelled the PCSO officials to submit relevant documents, including reports, bidding documents and other important records.