MANILA, Philippines - A former official of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) who hosted a program promoting the agency was criticized during a Senate inquiry for allegedly using his television show to campaign for a presidential candidate.
Sen. Franklin Drilon said former PCSO chairman Manoling Morato used his now defunct program, "Dial M", to promote the candidacy of Gilbert Teodoro, who was the previous administration's candidate in the 2010 polls.
"Don't you find it inappropriate to use the time for a political purpose?" Drilon told Morato during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's hearing on PCSO anomalies on Monday. "Isn't that electioneering, using public funds for political purposes?"
Morato finds nothing wrong with it.
"I was not paid [public funds]. I was free to say what I wanted," he said.
Morato said his TV show, which aired over the government station, was one of the PCSO's efforts to advertise itself.
The PCSO spent more than P30 million for the program.
Some senators, however, doubted if the program helped promote the PCSO, particularly the lotto.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada cited audience measurement surveys showing that "Dial M" barely had viewers.
"Kung malakas ang programa n'yo, bakit may buwan na wala talagang nanood," he said.
Morato said he doesn't believe in ratings, and that they had viewers who would call the program from as far as Saudi Arabia.
He also said producing the show was cheaper than placing advertisements on major TV networks.
"Mantakin n'yo kung magkano ang isang oras sa ibang channels," Morato said.
"Natural mura, kasi wala namang nanonood," Estrada replied. "If you spent the money wisely…mas marami tayong matutulungan kaysa itong walang nanonood na programa."
Senators also questioned the huge overall amount the PCSO spends for advertising.
PCSO board member Atty. Aleta Toletino said the agency spent P7.2 billion for advertising from 2005 to 2010. In the first 6 months of 2010, an election year, PCSO spent P1.1 billion for TV, radio, and print advertisements.
This happened even as the PCSO has a pending payment of P2 billion to government hospitals.
"'Pag wala ho ba kayong advertisement, walang tataya sa lotto?" Drilon said.
"In my opinion, there would still be people who would be betting on the lotto," answered PCSO General Manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas II.