SPECKS OF LIFE: The PCSO puzzle

FRED LUMBA

Let the chips fall where they may.

I say this on account of the latest stern directive from the Chief Executive
who ordered the cessation and stoppage of all gambling activities and franchises granted by the PCSO, among which are the Lotto, STL, Peryahan ng Bayan, Keno and other on-line PCSO activities.

I am in agreement with PRRD about the extent of corruption prevailing
inside the premises of the agency as it seemed to have grossly deviated from its mandate of providing free hospitalization, medicines, medical attention and treatment to indigent patients and other charitable projects that had something to do with public health care.

Today, PCSO has unabashedly “blossomed’ into a thriving gambling enterprise that can parallel those in Las Vegas where the cash registers don’t stop ringing until the last penny is dropped into the slot.

The lotto idea was great at the beginning. When ex-PCSO Chair Manuel Morato broached the idea – after carefully studying the American model –Filipinos slowly but surely gravitated to it.

In my personal chat with Chair Morato sometime ago, (he preferred to be addressed “Tito Manoling”) he loved the noble idea that people were willing to place a small amount on Lotto although knowing that the odds to win were simply near to impossible.

“Because the public knew a ten-peso bet is not too big a deal as their resources are pooled together for a noble cause,” explained Morato. He added that former Pres. FVR was not too ecstatic about the idea at first but because the American lotto model was running efficiently at that time (1995), the latter acquiesced.

Morato, the son of the first QC mayor, plodded on and in due time, the lotto proceeds grew and grew, thus enabling it to financially assist the indigents
that perpetually formed kilometric lines seeking free medical assistance from the agency.

I am a personal witness to the generosity of Tito Manoling. I saw many poor people lining up in his office until late in the night after office hours asking for alms – anything for that matter, from transportation money to simple purchases of headache and flu pills.

Anyway.

The STL, Peryahan ng Bayan, Keno and other on-line PCSO franchises are sources of corruption, this much the President is stating.

The STL (Small Town Lottery) was designed in the previous administration to “kill” jueteng but it failed. Instead, STL became the convenient cover-up that jueteng operators used to continue peddling their nefarious activities.

The jueteng lords paid millions to the PCSO for the STL franchises per area or territory. Who benefitted from the millions paid for the STL franchises? So, many gambling lords conspired and connived, formed corporations to control their respective jurisdictions.

While the STL was designed to earn taxes for the government, STL companies owned by jueteng bosses submitted receipts grossly less than what they ideally should be declaring.

Sources and keen observers say STL operators are short-changing the government by about P4 billion a year in their collections. In effect, jueteng lords were still soliciting bets for their jueteng operations, the bulk of which goes to their treasury chests while the remaining pittance was the one submitted to the government for tax purposes.

Pres. Erap once expressed that the only way to control jueteng is to legalize it. After all, the STL implements the same betting practices. STL is a redundancy. I think I recall PRRD saying the same thing sometime back. But I would suggest that the President spare the lotto games. All other PCSO franchises that encourages plain gambling addiction – Keno, STL, Peryahan ng Bayan, on-line bingo games, etc. – should be disposed of, much like a spoiled hamburger that is no longer edible.

Still, a deep probe of PCSO shenanigans, which are being swept under the rug, should be forthcoming. Just as PRRD dismissed officials of PhilHealth who allowed the illegal dissipation of funds, the President is expected to kick out negligent and corrupt PCSO officials.

Tito Manoling was ruing the transfer of the PCSO from its old Quezon Institute offices along E. Rodriguez avenue during ex-Pres. Noynoy’s term because it was paying no rent.
“Apart from that, it was very accessible to the poor patients…everybody in
fact can easily go to the PCSO, just ride the jeepney,” Morato lamented.
Compassion is a trait that seems to be too uncommon among us these
days.

The Dalai Lama said: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion;
if you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

(Email your feedback to fredlumba@yahoo.com.) GOD BLESS THE PHILIPPINES!