Senators divided over PCSO gaming suspension

Robie de Guzman   •   July 29, 2019   •   898

MANILA, Philippines – Senators have expressed varying opinions on President Rodrigo Duterte’s suspension order on all gaming activities of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

In a statement, Senator Panfilo Lacson said that as far as lotto operations are concerned, it should have been spared “since there are no reports of revenue cheating,” and that its activities are “computerized and automated and therefore closely monitored.”

President Duterte last week ordered for the suspension of all PCSO gaming operations amid corruption allegations in the state-run lottery agency.

Over 21,000 lotto outlets and other PCSO gaming kiosks nationwide have been reportedly closed after Duterte declared these as illegal.

Lacson said that if the president’s intention is to stop gambling altogether, then “all forms of gambling, including the PAGCOR-regulated games like casinos and online should have been included.”

Opposition senator Risa Hontiveros also questioned Duterte’s order, saying if he wants to rid the PCSO of corruption then he should go after corrupt officials who “connive with jueteng operations in using PCSO small town lottery (STL) franchises as fronts for illegal gambling operations.”

“Why shut down the entire multi-billion peso charity operations, including small lotto outlets which are highly regulated by the government?” she said.

“Thousands of our fellow Filipinos rely on the PCSO for financial assistance to cover costly medical expenses… Many Filipinos also base their employment and livelihood on small lotto operations,” she added.

The lawmaker said Duterte should explain his “abrupt, yet serious allegations” against the PCSO.

“How pervasive is the corruption within the PCSO? How are these forms of corruption carried out? And why expose this only now after three years of handling the PCSO?” Hontiveros asked.

Senator Grace Poe likewise called on the government to swiftly uncover the issue for the sake of many indigent Filipinos who rely on the PCSO for medical subsidies.

On the other hand, Duterte allies Senators Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed support for Duterte’s effort to cleanse the PCSO from corruption.

“May wisdom si Presidente kung bakit ipinahinto yan, gusto niyang linisin,” dela Rosa said.

“Mayroon namang possibility na babalik po yung operations basta walang graft and corruptions,” Go said.

The Malacañang earlier promised the president would soon name the persons involved in the alleged anomalies. The gaming ban would also stay until the government concludes its investigation.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, suggested that PCSO gaming activities be privatized to shield it from corruption.

Its proceeds should be remitted directly to the Department of Social Work and Development to fund social service programs, he added.

“This way we can avoid the mishandling of funds that are supposed to be allocated to help the poor,” Gatchalian said.

Malacañang earlier said the president first met with new PCSO general manager Royima Garma prior to his suspension order last Friday (July 26). (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

Robredo’s ICAD position not a Cabinet rank – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   November 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo’s role as co-chairperson of the inter-agency committee on anti-illegal drugs (ICAD) is not a Cabinet-level position, Malacañang said.

In a message to reporters on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Robredo is not a member of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet and that the post she was recently given was not a Cabinet rank.

“The post she was appointed to is not a Cabinet level. The discretion to appoint her as a member of the Cabinet, in addition to her appointment as the anti-illegal drug czar lies with the President,” he said.

Early this month, Robredo accepted the task to co-lead the government’s campaign against drugs, which the Palace previously said is a Cabinet-level position.

However, Panelo earlier said that Robredo will be invited to attend Cabinet meetings if the issue to be discussed will be about the government’s war on drugs.

Robredo earlier said she will only attend Cabinet meetings if she is invited, adding that it was not specified whether her new task is a Cabinet position when she received the appointment.

Prior to Panelo’s message, Duterte said in an interview with GMA on Monday that he did not designate Robredo as part of his Cabinet.

“I have not signed an appointment designating her as a cabinet,” the president said. “You know why? Early on she was talking right and left that she would talk to this and talk to that.”

“In the Cabinet meeting, we talk about what’s happening. Eh kung marinig nya yan dyan tapos dadaldal niya sa labas?” he added.

“Unang-una, Leni hindi tayo magka-partido. Hindi ako suspetsoso pero kung may makita ka diyan para ibuhos mo sa akin o ibigay mo doon sa iba para ibuhos sa akin… ‘Yan ang problema. Kung kapartido tayo, walang problema,” he said.

Robredo earlier gave assurance she would not divulge any classified information on the government’s war on drugs.

“Iyong assurance naman, lahat ng sensitive information hindi idi-disclose,” she said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Palace: Duterte is now in the ‘green of health’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 18, 2019

Malacañang has announced that President Rodrigo Duterte is experiencing sickness due to old age and is now in the “green of health”, not pink.

On Sunday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president, who is now 74 years old, is “not normal” when it comes to his health.

“Hindi siya normal kasi nga, ang dami niyang nararamdaman. Kumbaga, kung sinabi ko noon na (He is not normal because he has a lot of illnesses. It’s like, if I said then) he was ‘in the pink of health’, ngayon (now) I think he is now ‘in the green of health’,” he said.

However, Panelo said despite these illnesses, Duterte continues to do his duties as the chief executive.

“If you will notice, kahit na ganyan siya, may nararamdaman, iyong kaniyang schedule ganoon pa rin, hindi pa rin nagbago (Even if he is experiencing illnesses [due to old age] his schedule remain unchanged), not only does he survive but he does it well,” he said.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte doesn’t want to rest despite doctor’s advice – Bong Go

Robie de Guzman   •   November 13, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte doesn’t want to heed his doctor’s advice to take a rest, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said Wednesday.

Go, a former top aide of Duterte, said the president prefers to continue working and performing his official duties while he is staying in his hometown in Davao City.

“Sa totoo lang, ayaw magpahinga ng Pangulo, kahit sabihin mong he was advised by the doctor to rest,” he told reporters in Malacañang.

“Hindi po siya makatagal sa bahay at talagang gusto niyang magtrabaho at gumala,” he added.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Monday said the chief executive would go on a three-day break but later said he would just work from home in Davao City.

The Palace previously said the president’s doctor had advised him to limit his physical activity after he complained of “unbearable” pain in his spine following a minor motorcycle accident within the Malacañang complex on Oct. 16.

Duterte was in Japan to attend Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony when he complained of spinal ache and had to cut his trip short. After consultation with his doctor, Panelo said the president experienced a muscle spasm.

Go assured that Duterte is in good shape, adding that the chief executive is set to visit North Cotabato on Friday. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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