Loterya Not Yet Operational

MANILA, Philippines - While the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) plans to get its PCSO Loterya ng Bayan or "PLB" going before yearend, it clarified that no PLB test runs or operators of this alternative to the controversial Small Town Lottery (STL) have been approved as of yet.

Facing a press conference yesterday, PCSO General Manager Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II said the PCSO has yet to approve any application for PLB operations and that no test runs are being conducted in Metro Manila or other places.

The PCSO said 250 gaming firms have already filed applications to run PLB, which is hoped to help put a stop to illegal numbers games like "jueteng" after President Benigno S. Aquino II announced last Monday that he was pulling the plug on STL for its failure to curb illegal and fixed community number betting games.

Rojas said that while the PCSO cannot stop STL operations immediately because contracts of most operators are to expire in June 2013, it can introduce the PLB in areas where there are no STL operators.

However, the PCSO board is still moving to study the PLB applications to ensure that contracts will go to legitimate gambling firms.

The Office of the President-Legal Division is now studying the proposed implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the PLB.

PCSO officials led by Rojas also defended the agency against critics who said the STL failed to put a stop to jueteng.

They said the PCSO has no police powers to go after "jueteng" operators. "Stopping jueteng is a job for the Philippine National Police (PNP) and local government units," they said.

Reading the PCSO statement, PCSO Chairperson Margarita P. Juico said: "The PCSO has no authority to enforce the law against illegal gambling. Its role is to raise funds for health programs, medical assistance and services and calamities which are national in character. Its mission is to provide better ways of serving disadvantaged and marginalized sectors."

Juico said before the new PCSO Board assumed office in July 2010, the previous Board approved the piloting of the STL, then "regularized the lottery with a new IRR before the Aquino administration took over.

"The 'midnight' order was, however, kept secret from the STL operators and even from PCSO personnel who are supposed to implement the IRR," she said.

Juico said this was another example of an action by the past Board of the PCSO which "is severely constricting or limiting" to the new Board's movements.

"'Why do we keep on blaming the past administration?' Certainly, such past actions set some severe limits and makes demands on our time and resources as we move forward and untangle and undo the past," Juico said.

"For the new game (PLB), the IRR was drafted in such as way the PCSO would be able to police its own ranks, cancel contracts of erring Authorized Agency Corporations (ACCs) and ultimately close them down," she added.