Did stubborn PCSO employees trigger Duterte’s order vs gambling?

Pia Ranada
Did stubborn PCSO employees trigger Duterte’s order vs gambling?

Albert Alcain

President Rodrigo Duterte's surprise order is borne of his frustration over supposedly corrupt PCSO personnel resisting their transfers to other sectors, says an insider

Many a person’s Friday night was ruined when Malacañang aired President Rodrigo Duterte’s “special message” in which he ordered a stop to all gaming operations regulated by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PSCO).

Aired late night on Friday, July 26, the video was a surprise to many. Even more so when the next day, PCSO officials said they would ask the President to reconsider his order, indicating they did not agree with it and would have likely advised against it.

So what triggered Duterte’s blanket order? 

A source close to the President said that while Duterte has long raged over PCSO corruption, what drove him to issue a new directive was word that allegedly corrupt PCSO officials and employees were fighting a PCSO board decision to reassign them to another sector.

Duterte read the report on Thursday, July 25, prompting him to summon new PCSO general manageer Royina Garma for a meeting on Friday. Some hours later, Malacañang aired his verbal order against PCSO gaming formats.

The report included documents showing that Assistant General Manager of the Branch Operations Sector Remeliza Gabuyo resisting a board decision to transfer her to the office of the General Manager of the Management Sector.

The letter, dated March 14, informed PCSO chairman of the board and then officer-in-charge Anselmo Pinili, that her transfer cannot be enforced since she had appealed it before the Civil Service Commission.

She cited Section 13 of the Omnibus Rules on Appointments and Other Human Resource Action which states that employees may appeal a reassignment order within 15 days if they believe it is not justified. The rules also say that the reassignment “shall not be executory” pending the appeal.

Gabuyo also attached her letter to the CSC in which she said the reassignment was being made “for unclear and unjustified reasons.”

The board, under Pinili, had issued a board resolution (No. 57, series of 2019) which was followed by Special Order No 2019-137 dated March 13, effecting Gabuyo’s transfer.

There are supposedly many others like Gabuyo who resisted transfers and reassignments, citing security of tenure and court injunctions.

What court orders?

In his message, Duterte did mention court orders preventing the executive branch from implementing certain decisions. He said he would not respect such court orders.

“Irrespective of the court orders I was talking about, enjoining everybody to stop or [what] not to do or what not to do, especially government. I will not allow that. And I said I will not honor anything there,” said the President.

Outraged by the PCSO employees’ attempts to evade transfers and believing many of them to be profiting from their positions, Duterte decided that the best way to punish them was to cut their source of income – the PCSO-approved games, said the source.

Garma is yet to respond to Rappler’s queries about why Duterte gave his order on gambling.

No corruption report

Meanwhile, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission commissioner Manny Luna said that while his agency is probing PCSO corruption, Duterte’s Friday night order was not triggered by any report from them.

“While we’re probing some alleged shenanigans there, the President based his decision to stop all games on other sources of information,” Luna told Rappler.

Duterte created the PACC to investigate corruption committed by his appointees. The PCSO is under the Office of the President.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Chief Executive has, for a long time, been aware of anomalies in Small Town Lottery or STL operations and non-remittance of the PCSO’s share in Peryahan ng Bayan, a kind of small numbers game.

But Guevarra said he was not aware of what pushed Duterte to make his new order against PCSO gaming outlets.

In recent speeches, including his last State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte has expressed frustration and impatience with his fight against corruption. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.