Duterte lifts suspension of small-town lottery operations subject to conditions

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 22) — Small-town lottery (STL) agents can resume operations once they meet certain conditions as President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted the suspension of the numbers game.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told CNN Philippines on Thursday that the lifting of the suspension will take effect upon the publication of new implementing rules and regulations governing STL operations, which may be released by Monday.

Panelo said Duterte did not give any specific reasons behind his decision to lift the ban on STL operations, which were halted together with other games of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) last month due to “massive corruption involving all.”

Panelo cannot say whether the investigation on the alleged corruption in PCSO has been completed.

PCSO General Manager Royina Garma first broke the news through a live broadcast on the state lottery’s official Facebook page. She said they recommended to Duterte that the ban on STL be lifted.

Garma said authorized STL agent corporations that are compliant with their agency agreements and have been remitting their guaranteed minimum monthly retail receipts (GMMRR) can resume operations, but they have to comply with certain conditions.

Authorized agent corporations (AACs) need to deposit a cash bond with the PCSO equivalent to three months of the state lottery firm’s share of the guaranteed minimum monthly retail receipts, on top of their existing cash funds.

This bond would be forfeited in favor of the PCSO if they fail to remit their GMMRR on time.

AACs are also required to waive their right to head to court to obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the government. Duterte had earlier said he would not honor any court order that would prevent him from closing down the operations of these games.

“When they file a case and they’re able to file the TRO, eh ‘di tuloy sila [ng operations] pero hindi naman sila nagbabayad. Hindi na pupwede ‘yun,” Panelo said.

[Translation: When they file a case and they’re able to file the TRO, they will continue their operations but they will not be remitting. That’s no longer allowed.]

STL operators’ contracts with the PCSO will be automatically terminated if they violate the conditions of their franchise or any of the new conditions which will be set by the new IRR.

Duterte earlier suspended the operations of all PCSO games, including Lotto, on suspicion of corruption.

He lifted the ban on Lotto after three days, with Malacañang saying that it found nothing irregular with the operations of the national lottery.

The latest Commission on Audit report on the PCSO found the agency has yet to remit ₱8.4 billion to the government. State auditors also called out the state lottery agency for waiving ₱1.43 billion in claims from STL agents.

Three games can be played under the STL — a two-number game where players pick two numbers from one to 31; "suwertres", where players choose three numbers from zero to nine, and "pares" where players pick two numbers from one to 38.

The two-number and pares games are similar to jueteng, where players pick two numbers from one to 37.

STL was first introduced by the administration of former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino in an attempt to stamp out jueteng. But this failed, as investigations in the House of Representatives in 1990 found that franchises for STL were awarded to jueteng operators.

The local lotteries were resurrected under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, also as part of a campaign to eradicate jueteng.

However, the opposite happened — lawmakers found that jueteng operators hid their business behind STL.