House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez cautioned former jueteng bagman Sandra Cam, a member of the board of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, to be careful in accusing anybody, especially a person whose integrity is beyond reproach.
“There was one philosopher who once said, ‘Freedom to shout/speak doesn’t necessarily mean you can shout fire at a movie house on a Saturday night.’ Ang ibig sabihin niyan (That means) once you accuse a person it stays. Kapag in-accuse mo si (If you accuse) General [Alexander] Balutan that you are corrupt, the media will pick it up. But how long will it take General Balutan to clear to the public that he is not corrupt?” the lawmaker from Quezon province said during a hearing on Wednesday.
Cam, who attended the hearing, has questioned the “lavish” party the PCSO threw for its employees in December last year.
But Balutan said the employees deserved the party that cost PCSO P6 million. He added that the board approved the expenditure.
“The employees worked hard for this. Besides, our employees are also poor. They also have a right to enjoy sumptuous meals and an air-conditioned room,” Balutan said. “Considering the situation, I would say the amount is appropriate. It was a morale booster for the employees.”
Suarez urged the PCSO top executives to work as a team.
The lawmaker said if the animosity between PCSO officials and Cam continues, “one has to go.”
“I suggest that…mend. As what the President said, mag-ayos kayo ng inyong problema (fix your problems). Work together. There’s no room for disagreement in an office that is in charge of charity. Then if you cannot work together, then one has to go and maybe this body can come up with a recommendation in finding out who is right and who is wrong,” Suarez said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has dismissed Cam’s allegations.
“No less than the President [has]cleared PCSO on this issue. Parang ang word niya, ‘Okay lang na gumastos siya, malaki naman ang naitulong niyan (It’s okay for them to spend, they were able to help a lot).’ I think that’s the exact words of the President. Considering PCSO is under the Office of the President, no less than the head of office [the President]technically says there’s nothing wrong with it,” explained Suarez.
The PCSO earned a record high collection of P52.9 billion in lottery games last year, compared to P39.5 billion in 2016. For the agency’s Christmas party, the Department of Budget and Management approved a budget of P14 million, but P6.4 million was spent.
Balutan is a retired Marine major general who spent 37 years in the Philippine Marine Corps. He survived more than 50 combat encounters and four ambushes.
A member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Matikas” Class 1983, Balutan is one of The Outstanding Philippine Soldier Awardees in 2011. He is a recipient of two Distinguished Conduct Stars and four Gold Cross Medals for Gallantry in Action.