Padilla: PCSO should file criminal raps vs delinquent STL operators

Senator Robinhood "Robin" C. Padilla on Monday, Feb. 13, pressed the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to file criminal cases against delinquent operators of Small Town Lottery (STL), especially those who disappear after failing to remit their earnings to its office.

Padilla made the call after learning that the PCSO has yet to collect a "whopping’" P5-billion from STL operators who "disappear" after their franchises were terminated.

"My Senate colleagues, I believe this is no longer a matter of filing civil cases but of criminal cases," he said at the public hearing of the Senate committee on games and amusements.

Padilla was disturbed after learning during the hearing that the PCSO has yet to file criminal cases against STL operators who did not remit their earnings, and merely terminated their franchises.

He stressed the PCSO must be on the lookout against "hunyango" or chameleon-like operators who not only fail to remit their earnings but may also try to register for new franchises using different names.

"Dito sa ating bansa maraming hunyango rito (There are so many chameleons in our midst)," he said.

Senator Rafael "Raffy" Tulfo who presided over the hearing said the issue raised by Padilla "is a very good issue" which could be tackled in the next hearing.

The committee particularly tackled the collection and remittance of a five percent prize fund tax to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) from 2018 to 2021 despite the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, which allowed the PCSO to collect a 20 percent tax on prizes and winnings of more than P10,000 from sweepstakes and lotto draws.

According to Tulfo, apart from collecting from the operators and remitting to the BIR the 20 percent tax, PCSO continued to remit the five percent prize fund tax.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said the common criticism leveled by the betting public against lotto is the lack of transparency.

“Since the identity of the winner is not revealed, the people are suspicious whether the conduct of the lottery is above board.

Also, the reported lag time between the announcement of the results and the announcement of the number of winners leads people to suspect that this lag time is used to manipulate and insert 'lucky bettors' into the list of winners,” Pimentel stated in his resolution.

“There is a need to make sure that the processes involved in the conduct of the lotto games by the PCSO are honest and free from any kind of fraud because they are state-sanctioned forms of gambling and rely on their integrity for the successful raising of funds for health programs, medical assistance and services, and charities of national character,” he added.

Senator Ronald “Bato” M. Dela Rosa encouraged PCSO executives to exercise due diligence in their investigations on Small Town Lottery Authorized Agent Corporations (STL-AAC) who fail to remit earnings - reportedly worth around P5 billion - to the agency.

Dela Rosa advised the PCSO to consider the possibility that illegal organized groups might be behind STL operators that steal from lottery earnings.

He also said that the illegal backers of crooked STL operators could have changed business names and figureheads when terminated as partners of the agency.

"They will just continue to hit and hit and the government will continue to suffer if this continues. Let us use due diligence. These 'genius' personalities in gambling operations always deceive the government. Let us be careful so that we will not lose income," Dela Rosa said in Filipino.