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Senate to probe lotto machines deal

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 03:41 AM July 18, 2011

The contract for the lease-purchase of online lottery draw machines entered into by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office during the Ramos administration will be subjected to closer scrutiny by the Senate blue ribbon committee on Monday.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said on Sunday the committee would grill former PCSO Chair Manuel Morato over the purportedly disadvantageous PCSO contract forged with Philippine Gaming Management Corp.-Berjaya (PGMC-Berjaya).

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Morato said he was advised to sign the contract by then President Fidel V. Ramos’ legal counsels, now Chief Justice Renato Corona and Supreme Court Associate Justice Renato Carpio.

“I will ask the PCSO because Morato [was part of it]. Mita Pardo de Tavera objected to the contract,” said Enrile, who has asserted that it would have been less costly for the government to have bought, instead of leased, the lotto system from PGMC.

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The contract was briefly tackled in last Thursday’s hearing on the alleged misuse of PCSO funds.

In 1995, the PCSO entered into a contract with PGMC-Berjaya for the lease of its machines and agreed to pay the latter a sum equivalent to 4.3 percent of gross lotto sales. PCSO had the option to buy the machines for P25 million in the final year of its eight-year contract, but in 2004 it opted to renew the contract and even gave PGMC-Berjaya a bigger share of the lotto sales.

The new contract is supposed to run to 2015 because of an extension of the lease agreement, according to Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares.

There were two contracts. The first was signed by Pardo de Tavera, while the second was inked by Morato, according to the latter.

After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a petition filed by former Sen. Jovito Salonga questioning the deal, the contract was recrafted with the “help of Corona and Carpio,” Morato said.

“I was under the advice of Corona and Carpio, both presidential legal counsels, so I signed it,” Morato said in a phone interview. “I just followed what they told me to do.”

In any case, he said he was ready to face Senate grilling over the contract.

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Meanwhile, Morato challenged the Senate to subpoena all PCSO documents pertaining to PR expenses in 2010.

Morato, who served as a PCSO director during the Arroyo administration, said he could show proof that the current board chaired by Margarita Juico spent more for PR than the old board’s P88 million expense for public relations in 2010.

“What the Senate should do is subpoena all the documents,” he said.

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TAGS: Former President Fidel V. Ramos, Manoling Morato, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), Philippine Gaming Management Corp.-Berjaya (PGMC-Berjaya), Ramos administration, Senate blue ribbon committee, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
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