Administration allies on Wednesday downplayed the knee-jerk shutdown and subsequent reopening of online lottery operations of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), with Senate President Vicente Sotto III saying “it doesn’t matter.”
Asked by reporters if the Duterte administration should have studied the matter carefully to avoid dragging the lotto operations into the investigation ordered by the president into alleged massive corruption in the PCSO, Sotto said: “It’s just a few days.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s better to do it in one sweep so they wake up. And thereafter, just a matter of days, the lotto is to continue, I don’t see any problem with that,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced the shutdown of the entire PCSO operations via a Facebook video late on Friday, saying the lotto, Small Town Lottery (STL), Keno and others were deemed illegal because the government was being cheated of its rightful share of revenues.
The Philippine National Police shut down hundreds of lotto outlets, even spray-painting the word “CLOSED” on some.
Sen. Lito Lapid issued a statement saying the resumption of lotto operations was proof the investigation into the PCSO was moving.
“Ang muling pagbubukas ng operasyon ng lotto sa buong bansa ay patunay na umuusad ang ginagawang imbestigasyon ng Pangulo tungkol sa anomalya sa PCSO,” he said.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara thanked the president, saying there were no more hitches to the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Law, which is to be funded by lotto revenues.
“Nagpapasalamat tayo sa desisyon ng Pangulo na ipagpatuloy na ang operasyon ng lotto. Wala nang panganib na magkaka aberya ang pagsasatupad ng Universal Health Care Act at iba pang mga programa ng gobyerno para sa ating mga kababayan dahil sa kakulangan ng pondo,” he said.
Sotto admitted that the there were really no issues with the PCSO’s lotto operations.
“We we’re expecting it (reopening of lotto operations) because of all the events being handled by PCSO or games, if you may call it that, it is the lotto that has no issue at all. It is clear where the income, prizes go to,” he said.
Sotto said the STL should be the focus of the PCSO probe, noting reports that franchises were handed out to illegal gambling operators, who were supposed to be put out of business by the STL.
“They don’t remit the right collections. It’s as simple as that… they make more money under the table,” he said.
On Tuesday night, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo announced the resumption of lotto operations.
“As per the advice of Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, the suspension of Lotto operations has been ordered lifted by the President,” he said in a statement.
“Franchise holders and operators of lotto outlets may now resume with their operations. The lifting of the suspension of lotto operations takes effect immediately,” he said. (PressONE.ph)