PCSO questioned on how it utilized secret funds as illegal gambling still rampant
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) should explain how it spent its P100 million confidential funds as illegal gambling operations, which the PCSO’s games are supposed to fight, are still rampant in the country.
During the discussions on PCSO’s financial plan and contributions to the 2024 budget on Tuesday, Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Barbers asked officials why there is still illegal gambling when state-sanctioned games like Small Town Lottery (STL) should have been the answer to jueteng or suertres.
“There’s still illegal gambling, and PCSO is not denying this. And apparently their only way to answer questions thrown at them on the proliferation of illegal gambling is, it is a police matter. It is a law enforcement matter. Now, isn’t it logical that maybe perhaps the proliferation of illegal gambling in the country is because the policy is lax?” Barbers asked.
House committee on appropriations senior vice chairperson and Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo, who was presiding over the hearing, asked any of the PCSO officials to answer Barbers’ query after Assistant General Manager Lauro Patiag begged off, saying that it is a policy matter of the PCSO’s operations.
Eventually, PCSO Board Secretary VI Reymar Santiago answered the queries, saying that they would try to coordinate information that they could gather with law enforcement agencies, as the PCSO does not have police power.
He then added that they have confidential funds that can be used to gather information on illegal gambling activities, prompting Barbers to lament that PCSO might not be doing a good job with the confidential funds they set aside.
“If they have a confidential fund purposely to help or assist in the eradication of illegal gambling, they’re probably not performing very well. Because there’s still illegal gambling existing in the country today,” Barbers said.
Quimbo then asked PCSO how much of the P100 million confidential funds have been utilized as of Tuesday, to which Patiag said it is at P25 million, or just one-fourth of the entire allocation.
“They are thrifty because it’s already more than half of the year and they’ve spent 25 percent of what you’ve budgeted for your confidential funds. Shouldn’t you spend more of your confidential funds so that you can help stop illegal gambling?” Barbers said.
“Maybe we will just ask the PCSO to submit to us that circular and a reply, maybe just a letter or note to be slipped to the chairperson as to how you guys utilized your confidential funds,” he added.
The confidential funds were only one of the topics discussed during the deliberations of PCSO’s financial plan. PCSO originally appeared before the House committee on appropriations last August 15, but deliberations were deferred after the office presented conflicting data: a projected negative net income for the end of 2023, which Quimbo pointed out.
Quimbo noted that the agency posted a net income of P4.2 billion net for the first half of 2023. But it predicted a negative P2.9 billion net in the NEP — a sharp P7.1 billion difference.
This led Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan and Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop to move for the deferment of the discussions.
Earlier, Patiag explained that in the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the P1.9 billion set aside for Personal Services (PS) was included in the P51.55 billion Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE).
As a result, MOOE was incorrectly bumped up to P53.53 billion, while still indicating the P1.9 billion for PS. This error in computation resulted in the DBM predicting a net loss of P2.9 billion by the end of 2023.
The net loss, instead of being P2.9 billion, would only be P938.5 million, inclusive of P520.4 million income tax. However, Patiag clarified that the computations would have not resulted in a net loss only if DBM included savings and game prizes that were forfeited after being unclaimed for over a year.