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Solons deny getting STL funds, demand apology from PCSO

Several representatives whose names were on the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s list of recipients of small-town lottery (STL) largesse on Thursday denied having received any money. Instead, they demanded a public apology from PCSO officials.

In all, 54 congressmen were tagged by the PCSO on Wednesday as having received 2.5 percent from the proceeds of the Small Town Lottery (STL) in their districts.

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Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III called his inclusion on the list malicious and welcomed the call for an investigation made by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

“May I ask what is the basis for the inclusion of the names of certain congressmen who were identified to have received something from STL?” Tañada said.

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Tañada described as unfair PCSO Director Aleta Tolentino’s statement that STL operators directly remitted to the congressmen the latter’s share of STL proceeds.

“If certain districts have STL operations, is it automatically presumed that their congressmen have been allotted and have received proceeds even without proof of receipt?” he asked.

Belmonte himself denied receiving a cut from STL, saying that he banned STL in Quezon City when he was mayor.

The government put up STL to kill the illegal numbers game “jueteng” and profit from the huge amount of money bettors plunk down for a shot at hundreds of pesos in winnings.

Tañada said that while STL was legal, there should be a paper trail to determine who actually received a share of its proceeds.

“I earnestly seek to have my name cleared from this controversy,” he said.

Camarines Sur Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella also denied receiving any money from STL and showed the media a copy of his letter to then PCSO Vice Chair and General Manager Rosario Uriarte dated Aug. 13, 2010, declining any proceeds from STL and returning the five checks totaling P18,116.05 the PCSO had sent to his office.

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“I regret to inform you that I cannot accept them,” he had told Uriarte.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano said the PCSO erred in listing him as an STL beneficiary.

“To include my name in the list of congressmen who allegedly received so-called commissions is the height of irresponsibility,” Albano said.

Albano demanded a public apology from PCSO officials not just for himself but all the congressmen who were dragged into the mess that, he said, was of PCSO’s making.

Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II also denied receiving STL funds.

But Minority Leader Edcel Lagman recalled having received in 2008 or 2009 at least two checks for small amounts that he said he did not cash.

“I did not solicit or demand any cash or check from the PCSO or any operator in connection with STL in the first district of Albay,” Lagman said. “I have not cashed the checks and I do not recall having deposited them.”

Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya admitted receiving a check for P5,000 but said he also did not cash it.

But in an apparent attempt to make amends, the PCSO on Thursday explained that there was nothing illegal about House members receiving STL funds.

The PCSO board made the clarification following media reports (not in the Inquirer) “that have placed congressmen who received their share from STL in a bad light.”

“The PCSO wishes to make clear that there is nothing illegal about congressional representatives receiving funds from the STL program, contrary to some media reports… We are prepared to clear their names in the media or in any public forum,” said a statement issued by the PCSO board.

During a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing last Monday, PCSO officials said lawmakers receive 2.5 percent of the monthly net earnings of STL outlets in their districts.

The proceeds are given in cash and the legislators are not required to liquidate the funds, meaning they do not have to say where the money went.

The PCSO explained that STL’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) allow for the disbursement of funds to congressmen requesting financial aid for their constituents.

“The IRR was adopted by previous PCSO boards in furtherance of the charity office’s goal of expanding its services to destitute patients and poor Filipinos needing medical care,” the officials said.

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TAGS: Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, PCSO Director Aleta Tolentino, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, small town lottery (STL)
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