MANILA - The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) does not just help indigents.
PCSO general manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas said the PCSO has a flagship individual medical assistance program (IMAP) that gives medical assistance -- medicine, laboratory tests, prosthesis and other procedures and requirements -- to those in need, rich or poor.
Rojas explained that those with life-long illnesses may need assistance even if they are rich because these may drain their resources.
He clarified though that they do not give cash but guarantee letters upon completion of the requirements of the PCSO like medical abstracts and hospital documents.
The PCSO generates an income of about P30 billion a year, of which 55 percent goes to the prize fund, 30 percent to the charity fund, and the remainder to the operating fund.
Rojas said hospitals can also request ambulances from the PCSO directly, separate from their local government units.
He estimates about 500 ambulances will be given away by the PCSO this year. The PCSO is already bidding out the contract to supply. Priorities will be the 4th, 5th and 6th class municipalities, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Caraga region.
Kabataan Party-list Representative Terry Ridon, meanwhile, asked the PCSO to account for the estimated P4.3-billion charity fund.
According to the PCSO website, the charity fund is an off-budget account "used exclusively to finance and support health programs, medical assistance and services and/or charities of national character."
Ridon noted that funds meant for charity may be abused if there is no public disclosure, noting that under PCSO rules, all disbursements from the charity fund "must not only be authorized by the PCSO Board of Directors but must also be approved by the Office of the President, regardless of the amount thereof."
Citing data on earmarked revenues culled from the 2015 Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF), the charity fund's minimum balance for 2013 is at least P4.35 billion, excluding the estimated P60 million in unclaimed and forfeited sweepstakes and lotto prices.
Ridon said the said balance is expected to increase to P4.79 billion in 2014 and P5.26 billion in 2015.
He also noted that in the 2012 Commission on Audit (COA) report, the audit agency noted that PCSO gave out questionable allowances and benefits to its Board of Directors.
Rojas, however, told Ridon at the budget hearing that the agency does not give out allowances and benefits to its board.