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Crushed, dashed

The latest from Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go just gave hope to millions of hopefuls — those who pray for divine intervention, or a stroke of luck, depending on one’s belief — seeking lift from their present financial state.

“Padlocking the PCSO was bad PR for Mr. Duterte. It hit the people harder than, say, his veto of the ‘endo’ bill.

The neophyte lawmaker shared President Rodrigo Duterte’s sentiment on Monday, disclosing the Chief Executive’s idea of reopening the Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office (PCSO), which operates the government’s nationwide lottery, but with a lot of ifs.

Go said the President will revive the lotto only when it is assured that corruption is stamped out of the agency’s system.

It is a big word and a big dream. It can be done with an honest crew, but that is hard to find, really.

Mr. Duterte, according to Go, also found lots of irregularities that needed to be remedied.
Starting with the contractors who need to pay up, Malacañang is set on bulldozing the rough roads ahead of the agency’s rehabilitation, if we are to believe its word.

The people, or those who seek redemption from poverty though the probability of winning the lottery — however small — do not feel the President’s intent in including the PCSO among its target agencies for cleansing.

Its closure was a badly planned approach. It came fast, harsh and painful for them.
The lotto was their only hope, not for some, but for many.

Padlocking the PCSO was bad PR for Mr. Duterte. It hit the people harder than, say, his veto of the “endo” bill. Yes, it did.

But the PCSO is not manned by saints.

A recent audit of the agency said more than P30 billion is missing from its earnings in the last two years. These were allocations for charity, a new building and payments for winnings and dividends.

The PCSO’s financial reports and income receipts were also reportedly manipulated. Bank balances do not reconcile.

There are more claims that need to be looked into. But those are reserved for the Senate, or maybe the House of Representatives, to probe.

Go said he will call for an investigation on the matter, but the people are demanding that government expose the names of those suspected of having filched PCSO money.

They need to know because many of the poor and the needy are still hopeful of receiving medical support from the PCSO. It is its primary role, to help fund the medical needs of those who could not afford hospital and medicine needs.

But the funds, it was claimed, have thinned out. There was not much to be had for support lately.

It is the PCSO’s biggest sin. No money, no support.

But where did the money go?

It would be Go’s first test from the people. He will be watched and judged for what would come out of his probe.

And he has to come out with a solution faster than he can dash to the nearest fire scene.

Because the longer it would take for him to do it, underground gaming operations would flourish.

It would take the government a tougher time to stamp illegal gambling operations out. That is for sure.

The President and Go should know. They have dealt with this issue when they were the top tandem in Davao City.

Betting on it

The office manager of a small business enterprise, loyal and trusted with the operational budget, was hooked on lotto so bad that she began to siphon little amounts from the office cashbox to fund her bets. She spent hundreds of pesos a week hoping to hit the jackpot and live the life she had always wanted.

“Here, it appears, is another agency that is allegedly being abused and robbing the poor and the sick of access to health and a better quality of life.

When she got caught, she defended herself by saying that she was merely “advancing” her salary and would pay off everything anyway (especially if she wins big time).

The woman was given a second chance with the promise to stop her dishonest act, but it was murmured about that she continued to place bets because, as everyone knew, she had three children who, although adults already, continued to depend on her for their financial needs. Her employers knew of her dysfunctional family’s plight and how she had worked for decades to send them through school so they could have a better life than hers. Alas, she coddled them too much even after that because she felt guilty about not being there while they were growing up.

Her story is one of so many millions who see the lotto jackpot as their way out, the answer to their prayers, the big break they are dreaming of out of a life they feel trapped in.

The lotto’s enormous success is hinged on dreams like those.

What a shock it must have been to find their favorite outlets closed some days ago. About 21,000 lotto outlets across the country shuttered! Where are they to go now?

President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to close all gaming operations by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) came after he revealed the massive corruption that was cheating government of “60 to 70 percent of revenue from the games,” a report says.

Another report reveals, “Under Republic Act 1169 or the PCSO Charter, the agency’s net receipts would be divided into 55 percent for prize fund for payment of prizes, 55 percent for charity fund for health programs, medical assistance and services and charities of national character and 15 percent operating fund for day-to-day operating, maintenance and capital expenditures.”

The PCSO is a key agency that helps government “raise funds for health programs and charities of national character,” it added.

Here, it appears, is another agency that is allegedly being abused and, in the process, robbing the poor and the sick of access to health and a better quality of life.

Only the greedy and heartless could stomach such a deed. No wonder the President turned almost apoplectic about it.

The money it raises is no chump change either. “In 2018 alone, the PCSO gained P63.56 billion from all its game products, where P18.69 billion or 30 percent was allocated to the charity fund. This total revenue came from lotto, Keno, Small Town Lottery (STL), traditional sweepstakes and instant sweepstakes,” the article said.

The President’ directive, while sweeping, reminds us of what happened with Boracay.
Closure of all lotto outlets may not have official papers yet, according to a company that leases lottery equipment in Visayas and Mindanao, but the order has been implemented.
The same company commented that the closure’s impact has been “inestimable at this point.”

It was probably referring not only to the millions who buy lotto and play the other PCSO games like STL, Peryahan ng Bayan and Keno, but all those who lost their jobs temporarily while this “clean-up” drive is ongoing.

Just what kind of corruption the President found we will know soon enough. Meantime, the absence of these games of chance should help us focus more on other aspects of our lives.

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