LOTTO operations resumed on Wednesday after the state-owned charity lost at least P250 million from a four-day suspension by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) said yesterday.
Mr. Duterte had lifted the suspension “because investigators found no anomalies in the conduct of its operations,” presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement late Tuesday. “Its sanctity remained untainted and the regulatory rules have been followed.”
All the other gaming operations with franchises, licenses and permits given by PCSO, such as small-town lottery, Keno and Peryahan ng Bayan remained suspended pending investigation, he said.
These were being probed for illegal activities including corruption and Mr. Duterte wants to first evaluate the results of the investigation, Mr. Panelo said.
The losses covered only lotto, PCSO General Manager Royina M. Garma said at a televised briefing yesterday.
Nelson Santos, chairman of the Philippine Online Lottery Agents Association, Inc. (POLAI) said not all lotto outlets have resumed operations due to some technical problems.
He traced the president’s decision to keep the ban other gaming operations such as Keno because of an alleged P4 billion net loss, citing the initial probe of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“They were wondering why operations continued despite the loss,” Mr. Santos said by telephone.
NBI Spokesman Ferdinand Lavin didn’t immediately reply to a text message seeking comment.
Ms. Garma said they had reviewed all lotto processes and found that there were safety nets to prevent corruption. The agency in the next two weeks will study how they can explain to the president that the small-town lottery is “very transparent and free from corruption.”
PCSO will let police and government agents probe individuals at the agency who may have been involved in corruption, Ms. Garma said.
Once small-town lotto operations are back, PCSO will be very strict to ensure it is corruption-free. “We mean business,” she said, adding state gaming operations should be free from graft.
PCSO might move small-time lotto draws from provinces to regions to make it more transparent, she said.
Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Monday ordered NBI on Monday to prioritize it probe of “massive corruption” in state gambling operations.
Meanwhile, House Minority leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante Jr. has filed a resolution to investigate alleged corruption at PCSO. “The innocent should not be made to suffer because of the guilty,” he told a briefing yesterday.
Also yesterday, senators weighed in on the issue by supporting the lifting of the ban.
“I’m told Lotto operations are clean,” Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III told reporters via a teleconference. “I concur with the president’s move.”
Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said the resumption of lotto operations means funding for universal health care provided by law won’t be jeopardized.
“We are confident the President will deliver on his vow to crack down on corruption within the PCSO in order to plug the leakages,” he said.
Under the law, 40% of PCSO’s charity fund goes to the enforcement of universal health care programs.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian reiterated that PCSO gaming operations should be privatized.
“Because lotto is primarily computerized and automated, the leakage in revenue is very negligible, if at all,” he said. — Arjay L. Balinbin, Charmaine A. Tadalan and Beatrice M. Laforga and Vince Angelo C. Ferreras