15 former and current PCSO officials face raps before Ombudsman over STL operations

Published August 18, 2020, 6:24 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) former general manager Alexander Balutan and former chairman Jorge Corpuz are facing a criminal complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) along with 13 other former and current officials of the agency involving alleged irregularities in the operation of small town lottery (STL).

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed the complaint last July 11 following the conduct of investigation in compliance with the July 31, 2019 order of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
 
In its complaint, the NBI recommended to the OMB that Balutan, Corpuz, six former and current PCSO board members, and seven members of the STL Monitoring Group (SMG) be prosecuted for violating Section 3(I) of Republic Act 3019 or the Graft and Corrupt Practices Act as well as for gross misconduct.
 
The six former and current PCSO board members are Sandra Cam, Betty Nantes, Mabel Mamba, Francisco Joaquin, Marlon Balite, and Jesus Suntay.
 
The members of the SMG who are also respondents are former chairperson Remeliza Gabuyo, Atty. Lauro Patiag, Atty. Anna Liza Inciong, Merceditas Hinayon, Arnel Casas, Andy Gauran, and Edwin Mackay.
 
The NBI also recommended that Gabuyo be prosecuted for obstruction of justice in violation of Presidential Decree 1829 and for serious dishonesty for having allegedly failed to provide the NBI the documents sought during the conduct of the investigation.
 
“The Board of Directors approved the 2016 STL IRR (implementing rules and regulations) proposed by SMG despite the fact that the same contravened the relevant laws of the PCSO,” read the referral letter of NBI Deputy Director Antonio Pagatpat addressed to Ombudsman Samuel Martires.
 
The 2016 STL IRR made revisions in the 2014 IRR and allowed the expansion of STL operations.
 
The NBI discovered that the 2016 STL IRR did not have the approval of President Duterte considering that RA 1169 or the PCSO Law is explicit in stating that “implementing rules and regulations for the holding of lotteries to be promulgated by the PCSO Board of Directors must be approved by the President.”
 
“In this case, the President of the Philippines was not given the authority to check the 2016 STL IRR since the Board of Directors of PCSO unlawfully arrogated themselves the authority to approve the same,” the NBI said.
 
Though RA 1169 clearly stated that number of tickets to be given gratis to ticket vendors must be fixed by the board of directors, the bureau found that “the PCSO did not fix the number of tickets to be given to the STL Operators as they allowed them to print their own ticket using the 0.5% printing cost.”
 
“The Board of Directors did not declare the excess of the 2% Printing Cost Fund as savings, thus, (it) should be reverted to the Charity Fund,” the bureau said.
 
To make the situation worse, the NBI said “the Printing Cost Fund was allocated to finance the MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) of the PCSO, as proposed by the Management Sector, as a result, increased the Operation Fund which should have been 15% percent of the Net Receipt,” it added.
 
“The Millions of Pesos that were not reverted to the Charity Fund could have provided assistance to the Filipino people who are still in the grip of grinding poverty. Due to the acts and/or omissions of the PCSO Officers and employees, the funds that should have formed part of the Charity Funds to be enjoyed by the echelons of the society were enjoyed only by a few PCSO employees, a clear violation of the applicable laws, rules and regulations and an infringement to the very purpose of the expansion of the STL Operations,” the NBI stated.
 
On the other hand, Suntay, now the representative of the 4th District of Quezon City, has denied involvement in the approval of the 2016 IRR and said hewas not given by the NBI due process in the conduct of the investigation.
 
“I was not even a member of the PCSO board when the questioned IRR was prepared and approved. I was appointed board member on December 2017 and resigned the following year, in October. The IRR was adopted in 2016, a year before my appointment. Secondly, I was never invited by the National Bureau of Investigation to shed light into this case,” he said.

 
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