This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) received a tongue-lashing from some lawmakers because of the absence of its top officials from House budget deliberations.
PCSO Chairman Junie Cua and PCSO General Manager Mel Robles were both missing from the House appropriation committee hearing intended for PCSO on Tuesday, September 12. Robles excused himself due to a trip to Ilocos region.
This left PCSO Assistant General Manager Lauro Patiag with the task of explaining how the agency is using its confidential fund in 2023 to go after illegal gambling operators, except that he did not have the answers.
He was only able to confirm that the agency has spent P25 million out of its P100-million confidential fund for the current year for surveillance activities.
“I’m not competent to respond to that because [my office] does not handle confidential funds,” Patiag said, responding to a query by Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Ace Barbers.
A proxy of Robles also said she was unauthorized to speak about it.
“The officer who knows all the answers to the questions on confidential fund is not present in today’s hearing. What I may suggest is on a voluntary basis, they can submit to the committee relevant information on the confidential funds,” quipped House appropriations senior vice chairperson Stella Quimbo.
The discussion on the agency’s use of confidential funds stemmed from Barbers’ assertion that the agency should take a proactive role in assisting law enforcement agencies in their crackdown on illegal gambling.
“Isn’t it logical that maybe the proliferation of illegal gambling in the country is because of the lax policy? For instance, STL (small town lottery) is being used as fronts for swertres in Mindanao, and even in Visayas,” Barbers said. “If they have a confidential fund purposely to assist in the eradication of illegal gambling, they are probably not performing very well.”
Other lawmakers also chastised PCSO for the absence of its top officials from the hearing.
“I feel insulted that the big bosses of the government-owned and controlled corporation known as PCSO wouldn’t attend the budget hearings insofar as the budget is concerned, while secretaries of different departments of governments would be present,” said Antipolo 2nd District Representative Romeo Acop.
“It’s very glaring that our co-chair has to give the answer to the PCSO on why they are here. This is very wrong. Congressman Acop said it: ask them why you are here. They said it’s because of courtesy. If it’s about courtesy, why are your two leaders not here? [The committee chair] also explained to them why they are here, because they have a mandate to be transparent to the Filipino people,” added Lanao del Norte 1st District Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo.
The PCSO was originally scheduled to present its budget on August 14, but it was suspended after less than an hour due to what ways and means chairperson Joey Salceda described as “flunky accounting” documents.
Patiag said on Tuesday that the total expenses for 2023 so far should be P53.6 billion, not P55 billion as shown in the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF).
He also said the projected net loss for 2023 is only P938 million, not P2.9 billion.
PCSO – a government agency under the Office of the President – is tasked to raise and provide funds for health programs, medical services, and charities through charity sweepstakes, races, and lotteries, as well as health and welfare-related investments. – Rappler.com