Perhaps one of the top locations wherein which Filipinos throw their excess money rather consistently is with gambling. Lately that has been with the various draws and lotteries managed by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), the revenues of every ticket and number combination going into charitable ends such as medical assistance, health programs and the like. Whenever the lottery prize inches closer towards big money like a billion pesos, one can expect aspiring lotto winners to pack the PCSO outlets until the prize is won. That routine has been severely affected however, when last Friday the President ordered all PCSO outlet operations to close.
According to Inquirer.net, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the immediate closure and stoppage of operations for all licensees of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office throughout the country on Friday, July 26. This includes all outlets for Lotto, Peryahan ng Bayan and Small-Town Lottery (STL). The President’s announcement was carried on a video posted at the official Facebook page for the Presidential Communications Operations Office. By his order, all standing franchises and licenses with the PCSO are effectively terminated. The President explains that he has stopped all PCSO operations on account of reported widespread corruption in the corporation, with officials involved.
“Since as of this moment beginning now, the licenses and franchises of whatever kind or nature granted by the PCSO as to all gambling schemes lotto peryahan ng bayan, STL, and those machines there that can be found everywhere, I will give them 24 hours to remove them from the public places,” so went President Duterte’s order on the video. He has further empowered all police and military personnel to immediately arrest any licensees that will continue to operate in spite of the PCSO closure, and in addition will disregard any court order to restrain operations from being carried out.
Both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and military have taken steps to ensure the closure of all PCSO outlets over the weekend. According to the Commission on Audit (COA), it was reported that about in third of the PCSO charity fund for 2017 was funneled to other recipients outside of health programs and medical expense assistance, for a total amount of P5.89 billion. With the PCSO under investigation, the President through spokesperson Salvador Panelo has directed petitioners to write either the President’s Office or the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), which remains operational in overseeing government-licensed casinos in the Philippines.
Even that however is in doubt considering President Rodrigo Duterte’s idea of criminalizing all forms of gambling, though he would have to confer with Congress in doing so. PCSO licensees are decrying the loss of employment from the mass closure, while detractors suspect that the lottery shutdown was to remove competition for Chinese-built gaming centers.
Image courtesy of Philippine Star