By Ellson Quismorio
Alexander Balutan’s exit from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) as its general manager is a step in the right direction, said Parañaque City 2nd district Rep. Gus Tambunting.
“Whether he (Balutan) resigned, was asked to resign or was fired, right now I think this is one step forward in trying to [fix] PCSO of its problems in management,” Tambunting, chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusements said in an impromptu press conference Tuesday.
The lawmaker was alluding to the management woes of the charity agency, which was learned in a series of joint hearings by the Games and Amusements panel and the House Committee on Public Accounts.
The root of the PCSO’s problem, and the one that may have led to Balutan’s resignation, is its supposed failure to account for small town lottery (STL) collections all over the country.
“We are going to recommend [a revamp of PCSO officials]. President [Rodrigo Duterte] has taken the lead, I’m sure may nagsabi na kanya na malaki na ang problema ng STL (I’m sure somebody has told him about the huge problem with STL),” Tambunting said.
During the joint hearings, Tambunting cited a 2017 Commission on Audit (COA) report which showed that the PCSO failed to collect P4.049 billion from 71 of the agency’s Authorized Agent Corporations (AACs). The AACs are the entities that operate Small Town Lottery.
That figure might even be understated, the Parañaque solon said during the presser. He also believes that collections grew higher last year.
“Tingin ko po lumalaki kasi dumadami ang operator. Pero madaming di nakokolekta (I think it’s rising because the operators have been increasing. But a lot haven’t been collected),” he said.
Aside from a revamp, Tambunting said the way the PCSO is run from the top must also change. He particularly pointed to Balutan’s double function of being a GM and policy-maker as a no-no.
“In the hearing it was clear he had two functions. He is the GM and also sits at the board. Meron siyang voting rights, sa policy-making kasama pa rin siya (He has voting rights, he is included in the policy-making process).
“I think this should be corrected in the future. Ang GM po dapat nag-iimplement na lang ng nagpag-usapan at hindi na dapat nangingialam pa sa paggawa ng polisiya. Dahil doon nagkakaroon ng conflict eh,” explained Tambunting.
(The GM should just implement the policies that have been agreed upon and not dip his hands in policy-making. That’s where the conflict rises.)
He also highlighted how sacred PCSO funds are. “Like I said over and over again, the PCSO funds are imbued with public interest. Ito po ay charity, ito po ay napupunta sa ating mga kababayan na nangangailangan ng gamot, ng pang-ospital. Hindi po dapat ito paglaruan.”
(This is charity, this goes to our countrymen who need money for medicine and hospital expenses. These shouldn’t be played with.)