DESPITE threats of being charged before the Office of the Ombudsman, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) General Manager Alexander Balutan remained adamant over the issue of the Small Town Lottery (STL), saying they will continue with its operation despite allegations by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that the numbers game is illegal.
Balutan said that contrary to claims made by Alvarez that STL operations are being used as a front for the illegal numbers game, halting STL operations will only benefit illegal gambling or jueteng operators.
“Stopping STL only favors gambling lords and their ilk,” he noted on Wednesday.
“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.
Alvarez warned that he will be forced to file a complaint against them before the Office of the Ombudsman, if the STL operations will not be stopped.
He said STL operations are not national in scale.
But Balutan said while they respect the opinion of the House Speaker, he assured that the PCSO, which is working under the Office of the President, is following the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to end illegal gambling operations in all its forms.
He clarified that the PCSO takes guidance and direction from the President who has been clear from the very beginning of his intention to eliminate illegal gambling operations and curb corruption.
Balutan explained that the PCSO’s enabling law (Republic Act 1169, as amended) will prevail in so far as state-run lotteries are concerned.
This law is among those which Executive Order (EO) 13 aims to implement and protect.
EO 13 is an executive issuance to honor PCSO’s charter mandate.
PCSO Chairman Jorge Corpuz earlier said halting STL will result in loss of revenue for the agency
He added that through the expanded STL, the PCSO has been able to collect in the last quarter of 2016, P6.46 billion, a far cry from the P4.7 billion collected for the whole of 2015.
The government is poised to lose almost P28 billion in revenue if STL operations come to a halt.
This loss translates to billions of funds for the government’s charity services and free medicines for the poor.
“I told him [Alvarez] 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,” Balutan said.