By Genalyn Kabiling
The government has no intention of abolishing the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for now as it is more focused on stopping corruption in the agency, Malacañang said Tuesday.
“Obviously sa ngayon, wala [Obviously, none for now],” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said when asked if the President has no plans to abolish the PCSO.
The Palace, however, did not rule out dismantling of the corruption-tainted charity arm of the government.
“Kung meron man, madali na gawan ng paraan ‘yun [If there are plans (to abolish), it is easy to find a way],” Panelo said.
“Whether it will entail or not, it will be done in a constitutional way,” he said when asked if the President needs congressional concurrence if he intends to abolish the PCSO.
The President recently ordered the closure of all gaming activities by the PCSO, including Lotto, Small Town Lottery, and Peryahan ng Bayan, due to alleged “massive corruption.” Duterte said he would also “not honor” any court order stopping him from carrying out its anti-corruption crackdown in the agency.
Panelo said President Duterte would “in due time” identify those involved in the alleged irregularities in the PCSO as well as lay down the “mechanism” to ensure a corruption-free system.
“We’re not talking of closure of this agency (for now), we’re talking of stopping massive corruption,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing. “He did not abolish PCSO, he ordered the closure of their outlets,” he added.
Panelo assured that a thorough investigation into the alleged conspiracy involving major players in the gaming activities is underway.
“We will have to wait for the President. He is thoroughly investigating the corruption and he will, as he said, in due time name them. He doesn’t want to commit a mistake,” he said.
“Ang mahalaga iyong katiwalian na naganap eh maihinto. Kailangan kung minsan mayroon tayong sakripisyong ibibigay para sa kabutihan ng pangkalahatan [The important thing is corruption must be stopped. Sometimes we must sacrifice for the greater good],” he added.
Panelo also defended the legality of the President’s order, saying the Chief Executive has the control and supervision over the PCSO.
“It’s legal. So if it is legal, you don’t have to put down in writing,” he said about Duterte’s verbal order on the shutdown of PCSO games.
The PCSO, mandated to raise funds for health programs, medical aid and other charities through sweepstakes games, lotteries, and other similar activities, is a government corporation attached to the Office of the President.
Meanwhile, Panelo said workers affected by the closure of the PCSO gaming operations are probably not that poor and may have savings to tide them over.
“Hindi naman siguro walang-wala sila ngayon. Pangalawa, eh noong wala pa naman ang mga outlets na ‘yan eh nabubuhay pa naman sila [I don’t think they have absolutely nothing now. Second, they were able to get by when there were no outlets then],” Panelo said.
He said these workers have earned profits in the past operations and could endure the temporary suspension of the games pending a corruption inquiry.
“I’m sure ‘yung mga naapektuhan, hindi naman sila ganoong kahirap. [Probably not. I’m sure those affected are not that poor],” Panelo said during a news conference at the Palace.
Asked if the government has any intervention to help the PCSO lotto outlet workers, Panelo initially said: “Sa ngayon wala [For now, there is none].”
Pressed for the government aid for the displaced workers, Panelo finally gave an assurance that they would provide assistance to these affected individuals. “The government will not discontinue providing assistance,” he said, without giving details.