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Magkakaalaman na! House panel wants list of congressmen who received cash from PCSO

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By: Xave Gregorio

The House good government and public accountability committee told Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Alexander Balutan to submit a list of congressmen who have received a share from the earnings of the government charity.

Alleged gambling lord Atong Ang bared Tuesday (February 13) during a House probe on the purported anomalies in the PCSO that solons in congressional districts which host small town lottery operations receive 0.25 percent of the gross receipt of the government agency.

House good government and public accountability chair and Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel immediately belied Ang’s claim, saying “the congressmen here have not been receiving any allocation from the PCSO.”

However, Antipolo City 2nd District Rep. Romeo Acop confirmed Ang’s allegation, saying he received a check from the PCSO amounting to more than P1,600 in 2017, but said he has returned it.

“I have returned the check simply because we do not know how to liquidate it. There are no guidelines issued by the PCSO. Eh kung may galit sa akin, eh kakasuhan ako,” Acop said.

Acop added that the check is issued in the name of the congressman in the legislative district because “the banks will not accept it” if they were issued in the name of the district.

Deputy Minority Leader and Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin pointed out that Article X of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the small town lottery (STL) provides that 0.25 percent of the charity fund reserved from the gross STL sales goes to congressional districts which host STL operations.

The charity fund is 30 percent of STL gross sales.

However, Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Winnie Castelo was quick to point out that the IRR is the handiwork of PCSO’s board of directors, and not of Congress.

“There is no law passed by Congress that allocates any congressman or legislative district a share [from the charity fund.] In fact, if there was, it was a product of the implementing rules and regulations by the board of the PCSO,” Castelo said.

Castelo also denied that he received money from the PCSO as STL is not allowed in his district.

“We did not allow the STL here. We are against it because it is devoid of any legal basis,” he said.

Opposition lawmaker Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman also said in a press briefing that he is “not a beneficiary of any share, and I do not accept any percentage of any such share.”

Misamis Occidental 2nd District Rep. Henry Oaminal, meanwhile, admitted that there were STL operations in his district, but said he has not received “a single centavo” from its operations as the operator in his locality is supposedly linked to a drug lord.

“There is no single centavo because we refuse to receive such particular location in my district,” Oaminal said.

House Minority Leader and Quezon 3rd District Rep. Danilo Suarez, however, said he has received a share from the PCSO and defended the allocation of a part of the charity fund to legislative districts.

“When we give charitable money for scholar (sic), may namatayan, they don’t ask where the money come (sic) from. And this is kulang pa ho, kung tutuusin. Sa dami ng nanghihigi sa amin who go to congressional offices,” Suarez said.

“There should be no malice on the fact that certain amount is being given to congressional district,” he continued.

But for Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the allocation for solons from the charity fund is similar to the pork barrel, which has already been outlawed by the Supreme Court in 2012.

“Kaya sa tingin ko, namamayagpag pa rin ang illegal numbers game dahil nga, parang lumalabas, namimigay kayo ng pork barrel eh,” Zarate told Balutan.

STL is touted by Balutan as the solution to quash illegal numbers games, but recent congressional probes have uncovered the possibility that it is being used as a front for jueteng.