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Duterte fires PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte has fired Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Alexander Balutan, a Malacañang source told Rappler on Friday, March 8.

Another government source said Balutan was suddenly called to the Palace on Friday. A retired general close to Balutan also confirmed his dismissal to Rappler.

Malacañang, in a statement after the story broke, confirmed that Balutan was fired.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said his services were "terminated" due to "serious allegations of corruption."

The PCSO, however, had earlier said Balutan "opted to resign." He did so "for personal reasons," said PCSO deputy spokeserson Florante S. Solmerin.

A 1983 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy and former Marine officer, Balutan is among the retired generals Duterte tapped for civilian government posts.

He gained prominence under the government of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, when he testified on his knowledge of election cheating in the 2004 presidential elections which Arroyo won. Balutan testified at the Senate despite Arroyo's executive order banning government testimonies on the cheating allegations.

Balutan has locked horns in the past with another Duterte appointee, PCSO board member Sandra Cam, a former "jueteng" whistleblower

Cam had accused Balutan of overspending on the PCSO's Christmas party in 2017. Duterte, however, had shrugged off  the accusation and even defended Balutan. The Chief Executive even advised Cam to stop "fighting" Balutan. 

In October 2018, Cam lobbed another accusation against Balutan. She claimed he had unduly acted in favor of a company called Mountain View Games of Chance Corporation, alleging he is friends with its owners.

A month before, PCSO had approved the company's bid to be a Small Town Lottery (STL) agent. STL, a legal form of gambling in the Philippines, is being expanded by government in order to earn more revenue and provide more jobs. STL agents are authorized by the government to conduct STL in specific areas. In response, Balutan denied favoring the company, insisting that all approvals of STL agents are done by the PCSO board as a whole.

Balutan, meanwhile, had accused Cam of seeking his PCSO post.

Cam is friends with gambling tycoon Charlie "Atong" Ang who had accused Balutan and former PCSO chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz of underdeclaring revenue generated by Small Town Lottery (STL) operations, thus supposedly putting the government at a disadvantage.

Balutan and Corpuz, meanwhile, claim that Ang just wants control over STL. Balutan said that weeks after they were appointed into the PCSO, Ang offered them P200 million a month if they would give him control over STL nationwide.

Balutan also said Ang is yet to settle millions in unpaid taxes. 

Duterte has admitted asking Ang to help put a stop to illegal gambling operations given his experience in the industry. (READ: Duterte says he tapped Atong Ang to help PCSO) – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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