PCSO says general manager resigned, Palace says he was fired

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 8) — Alexander Balutan is no longer General Manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

According to PCSO Deputy Spokesperson Florante Solmerin, he resigned due to "personal reasons."

But in a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that he was fired.

"The Palace confirms that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has terminated the services of PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan on his present post due to serious allegations of corruption," Panelo said.

Balutan's stint as the general manager of the PCSO was marred by accusations of improper spending, especially on the government agency's Christmas party at luxury five-star hotel EDSA Shangri-la. Balutan admitted that they spent ₱6.3 million for the party for their 1,580 employees and guests.

Duterte previously said that he did not find anything wrong with the affair.

Following the allegations hurled by PCSO board member Sandra Cam, the government agency's chair, Jose Elizalde Corpuz, also resigned last year, supposedly due to health reasons. Corpuz was replaced by Anselmo Simeon P. Pinili, the present chairman.

The Commission on Audit, in its 2017 audit report, also flagged the "extravagant expenditure" for the Christmas party, saying the state lottery firm could have held it at a much cheaper venue.

The state audit agency also found that the PCSO's ₱5.89 billion charity fund was not used for charity programs and was overspent by officials.

Balutan is a former Marine general who availed of early retirement in anticipation of an appointment to the Bureau of Corrections. Duterte instead appointed him to the PCSO in 2016.