Duterte defends Balutan in PCSO Christmas party controversy
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he has no problem with the supposedly "lavish" Christmas party held by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), and thus holds no grudge against its general manager, Alexander Balutan.
Duterte, on Monday, February 12, even asked his audience at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu to applaud Balutan for the PCSO's efforts.
"Pasalamatan natin si General Balutan…. 'Yung kaso niya na ano, 'yung sabihin niya, 'I spent P4 million sa' – ako, wala 'yan sa akin," said Duterte.
(Let's thank General Balutan.... His case, when he said, "I spent 4 million" – to me, that's nothing.)
"As long as the money is used for canned goods, it will be eaten," he said, possibily referring to how PCSO's earnings are often used for humanitarian assistance by the government.
Duterte also said the millions used for the party are defensible given the size of the PCSO, which has offices all over the country.
"Akin, party, baka akalain mo isang opisina lang 'yan, sabi nila. (Party, you might think, because it's just one office.) It's a big – there are casinos everywhere in the Philippines, including Davao," he said.
However, he kept referring to Balutan's office as the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), which monitors gambling operations in the country.
Duterte also mentioned resigned PCSO chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz, who, he said, had a "stroke," hence his decision to leave PCSO.
The President had nothing to say about PCSO board member Sandra Cam, who was the first to accuse Balutan and Corpuz of lavish spending on the Christmas party.
Balutan said the PCSO spent P6 million on the party, but that an even larger amount, P14 million, was approved for it by the Department of Budget and Management.
Corpuz defended the spending on the party, saying the 1,580 PCSO employees who attended "deserve" it for their hard work in raising the agency's earnings.
Balutan accused Cam, a friend of gambling tycoon Atong Ang and a former "jueteng" whistleblower, of wanting his position to give Ang control over small town lottery operations. (READ: Duterte says he tapped Atong Ang to help PCSO)
Last January, Duterte jokingly asked Cam to "stop fighting" Balutan. – Rappler.com