Lotto suspension lifted; STL, Keno still in limbo

Lotto operations of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office resumed Wednesday after the agency lost P250 million in revenues during a four-day suspension, but its small-town lottery and other gaming schemes remained closed.

Lotto suspension lifted; STL, Keno still in limbo
LET THE GAMES RESUME. Bettors flock to a PCSO outlet on Wednesday to place their bets after President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the suspension of lotto operations. Norman Cruz
Malacañang lifted the suspension of lotto operations Tuesday night, but other games such as STL, Keno and Peryahan ng Bayan would remain suspended as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against corruption.

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission head Greco Belgica said a lifestyle check will be conducted on former and incumbent officials of PCSO, including members of its board of directors, amid corruption issues hounding the agency.

“We will be conducting a lifestyle check against all of them,” Belgica said.

Duterte ordered the suspension of PCSO games in a video message Friday night due to alleged “massive corruption” in the agency, closing 30,000 lotto and other gaming outlets nationwide.

In a statement, the PCSO said the Lotto 6/42, Mega Lotto 6/45, Super Lotto 6/49, Grand Lotto 6/55, Ultra Lotto 6/58, 6 Digit Game, 4 Digit Game, Suertres Lotto, and EZ2 Lotto will resume.

The agency has also resumed the lotto draw and said that prizes are intact despite the closure of its gaming outlets.

“PCSO lost P250 million in four days when online lotto stopped its operations,” PCSO General Manager Royima Garma said in a press conference.

The President is “satisfied” and found no irregularities in the operations of lotto after an investigation was conducted, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Wednesday.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also said investigators found no anomalies in the conduct of its operations, and that regulatory rules have been followed.

Garma said there are “safety nets” in lotto operations that make it transparent and corruption-free.

Meanwhile, other PCSO games particularly STL will be subjected to investigation and changes, Garma said.

“In STL and other games, there will be changes and [they] will be fixed,” she added. “This is for the benefit of the public and to dismiss doubts that there is corruption. This is also to ensure that the revenues will be remitted to the government.”

Garma said the games should be more transparent in the wake of corruption allegations.

Panelo said all reports of corruption in the agency were being investigated but the President has not issued a timeline. 

“It’s not that easy. As the President said, money is difficult to trace because it is just being deposited to the banks. You need to thoroughly investigate it and look for people who can testify,” he said.

While investigations are ongoing, about 300,000 Filipinos who are working in STL operations are set to lose jobs. 

PCSO officials can also be fired depending on the investigation, Panelo said.

A Senate panel is set to probe the gaming operations of the PCSO. 

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee, said a hearing will be conducted next week to find out why Duterte stopped PCSO’s gaming operations. Gordon said the probe will seek to identify who are involved in corrupt activities.

Some lawmakers have also expressed the need to amend the PCSO Charter.

“They can do whatever they want. That’s their duty as members of Congress. What is good and beneficial to the Filipinos, they should do,” Panelo said.

Duterte’s order to suspend all gaming operations of PCSO came under fire because thousands of Filipinos depend on the agency’s medical assistance program.

Under the Universal Health Care Law, a portion of its earnings will also finance the country’s health care program. 

Thousands of Filipinos are also expected to lose their jobs because of Duterte’s closure order.

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, said it will focus its inquiry into irregularities that may have occurred when trial court judges issued injunctions to stop the government from acting against PCSO agents.

Bersamin said, however, that the judges are presumed to have acted in good faith in issuing these injunctions unless proven otherwise. 

“We cannot presume these judges had committed irregularities, the Court Administrator is very fair and he will look at these reports and see if there are grounds for further investigation,” Bersamin said in an interview.

“You know the status report is only one element of proof. These reports are made by the judges and their clerks of court and their personnel and the OCA is a very experienced office, there are many personnel there who are very, very capable of detecting deficiencies or non-compliance. If they notice anything irregular then they will determine if there is a need to investigate deeper or just call the judges’ attention to whatever shortcomings there were,” Bersamin added.

A Court insider revealed that said numerous TROs on PCSO-related cases have been issued by some trial court judges in Metro Manila and in some provinces.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara on Wednesday said the danger that the Universal Health Care Act will go unfunded has passed after the President lifted the suspension of the PCSO’s lotto operations.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he expected the suspension would be lifted because all of the lotto events were handled by PCSO. 

“Lotto… has no issue at all,” he said, adding that the problem was in the STL operations.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the lifting of the suspension order was a welcome relief for more than 6,300 lotto outlet operators who were affected by the President’s ban.

“I believe that because lotto is primarily computerized and automated, the leakage in revenue is very negligible, if at all,” he said.

Lotto suspension lifted; STL, Keno still in limbo
LET THE GAMES RESUME.  At right, PCSO general manager announces the resumption of Lotto games as she launched ‘Ipaalam kay GM’ Facebook page at the main office of the PCSO in Mandaluyong City. Manny Palmero
The Philippine National Police, which took a highly public role in padlocking the lotto outlets, said it would help them remove “closed” signs and police tape. With PNA

READ: Palace lifts suspension on lotto games only

READ: SC goes after judges linked to PCSO mess

READ: Lotto operators can fend for selves—Palace

Topics: Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office , Rodrigo Duterte , small-town lottery , Greco Belgica
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