Congressmen’s cut questioned
Members of the House of Representatives and policemen receive substantial amounts from net receipts of Small Town Lottery (STL) outlets in their areas of jurisdiction, officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) said on Monday.
“How come senators are not among the beneficiaries?” Sen. Panfilo Lacson asked sarcastically at the hearing of the blue ribbon committee investigating alleged corruption in the PCSO.
Lacson later said that while the practice of giving cash directly to congressmen may be legal based on the current PCSO charter, “there may be questions about propriety.”
The PCSO said lawmakers were receiving 2.25 percent of the monthly net earnings of the STL outlets in their districts.
The proceeds are given in cash and the legislators are not required to produce documents to liquidate what they receive.
The amount may be in addition to the payola the lawmakers are getting from operators of “jueteng,” an illegal numbers racket that STL seeks to replace.
Solons operate jueteng
Some of lawmakers from Ilocos to Bicol were not only receiving payoffs, but were directly involved in jueteng, whistle-blower Sandra Cam said in September last year before the House games and amusement committee.
Cam told reporters that the congressmen were getting a minimum of P500,000 each. Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, head of the Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng, backed Cam’s allegations.
The Philippine National Police headquarters and its regional, provincial and local commands get regular amounts from STL operators to help stamp out jueteng in their areas, the PCSO said at the Senate hearing. Many STL collectors are known to also collect bets for jueteng.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, blue ribbon committee chair, said that in 2008 alone, a review by the Commission on Audit showed that the PCSO “directly remitted” P7 million to congressmen “instead of individual hospitals, facilities and welfare institutions.”
The proceeds received by congressmen and the police are credited to the PCSO charity funds, PCSO General Manager Ferdinand Rojas II said. Congressmen are only required by the charter to sign acknowledgment receipts to indicate that the funds reached them.
“If the PCSO charter is specific on allotments for prizes, charity funds and operational expenses, where do you get the 2.25 percent for congressmen?” Lacson asked.
Aleta Tolentiono, a member of the new PCSO board, said cash given to members of the House were credited to the 30 percent from total earnings earmarked for charity funds.
She said House members and the police force with STL operations in their areas were given financial support to strengthen their antijueteng drive.
“Since the revenue comes from their area, the charity funds go back for health and medical expenses. Instead of congressmen endorsing patients to PCSO, they are given cash directly to dispense for charity,” Tolentino said.
Sensing the outrage generated by the disclosure, Tolentino hastened to add that “under the new rules and regulations, congressmen would be required to provide a list of beneficiaries” instead of merely signing acknowledgment receipts.
With the government’s planned launch of the Loterya ng Bayan to replace STL, Tolentino said new rules would be put in place to ensure that the cash given to congressmen will be properly monitored.
“I recommend that you suspend this benefit until congressmen submit the proper liquidation documents,” Lacson said.
Guingona warned against the flimsy monitoring of the funds given to congressmen.
“Because only acknowledgment receipts are required, the COA could not say whether the money was used properly. Whether it reached a congressman or the PNP, who knows if the money went to an official account or somewhere else,” he asked.
“I would understand that the PNP gets a share because of its efforts against the flourishing of jueteng,” Lacson said.
“I also understand that local government units are part of the antijueteng drive. But what is the role of congressmen here? How come there are no senators,” he added in a joking manner.
Rojas explained that 5 percent of STL earnings nationwide went to the PNP.
“(Half a) percent goes to the PNP headquarters while 4.5 percent goes to the local PNP units. The local portion includes 0.5 percent for regional, 1 percent for provincial and 3 percent for cities and municipalities,’’ Rojas said.
The proceeds are submitted by local STL operators on a monthly basis and are coursed directly to the local PNP. The PCSO is only furnished with acknowledgment receipts, he said.
“But those receipts are only paper,” Guingona noted. “How does the Commission on Audit make sure if remittances are indeed received by the local PNP?”
“Yes, but what is your proof that the money was really used by the police for antijueteng (operations)? Were the checks issued in the name of the PNP headquarters? And as to the regional, provincial and municipal levels, you cannot say where the money really went,” the blue ribbon chair noted.
“That is the conclusion, your honor,” Rojas said.
PCSO Chair Margie Juico was quick to point out that these practices began in 2007.
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