Lawmaker to PCSO: Use P100-M confidential fund to fight illegal gambling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — A lawmaker urged the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to increase spending of its P100-million confidential fund for 2023 to stamp out illegal gambling.

PCSO should spend more of its confidential funds to crack down on illegal gambling operators in line with its mandate, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers told the House appropriations panel’s hearing on Tuesday.

“It’s already more than half of the year and they’ve spent 25 percent of what you've budgeted for your confidential funds," Barbers said. "Di ba dapat eh damihan nyo ang inyong confidential funds para mas marami kayong mahuli?”

PCSO Assistant General Manager Lauro Patiag said the government corporation has so far only spent P25 million of its confidential funds, with only three-and-a-half months to go in the year.

Reymar Santiago, who attended the hearing as representative of PCSO chairman Junie Cua, said the agency is using its confidential funds to gather information on illegal gambling operators.

“We have established coordination with law enforcement agencies NBI, PNP," Santiago said. "Lalo din po sa LGUs (local government units) we are also coordinating for these illegal number games. Wala po kasi kaming police power that’s why we can do that to that extent for coordinating."

Patiag, however, said PCSO’s efforts against illegal gambling are limited to coordinating with law enforcement agencies and LGUs since it does not have police powers.

PCSO regulates lotto, Scratch-It, and small town lottery. Jueteng, however, is considered an illegal numbers game.

Meanwhile, lawmakers expressed dismay at the absence of Cua and PCSO General Manager Melquiades Robles at the hearing.

The two officials informed the committee by letter that they were scheduled to travel.

“I feel insulted that the big bosses of the GOCC (government-owned and controlled corporation) known as PCSO wouldn't attend the budget hearings,” said Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop.

“Kung ang ating pangulo hindi nakakatakas sa kanyang taunang responsibilidad na mag-report sa Congress sa kanyang State of the Nation Address, ganoon din kayo,” Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo added.