MANILA – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday said he convinced the Palace to lift suspension of lotto operations because it was not a “problematic area."
President Rodrigo Duterte last Friday ordered the closure of all gambling activities with franchises, licenses and concessions granted by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the arrest of anyone involved in these activities, citing “massive corruption.”
The Palace then lifted the suspension on Tuesday evening. The suspension of lotto operations cost the government some P250 million in lost revenues.
“I had a telephone conversation with the Executive Secretary [Salvador Medialdea] and we discussed the possibility of partially lifting the suspension at least insofar as the lotto operations are concerned. And I told him that from our point of view, lotto is not a problematic area,” Guevarra told reporters.
“So we had that telephone discussion one evening. The following morning, in-announce na lifted na ang suspension ng lotto operations. (The following morning, the lifting on the suspension of lotto operations was announced.)” he added.
Upon clarification, Guevarra said his phone call to Medialdea took place Monday.
It was not until Tuesday night, in a phone call to the ABS-CBN News Channel, that Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced the lifting of the suspension of the operations of lotto. Panelo credited Medialdea for the advice to the President.
Guevarra earlier rejected criticism of alleged arbitrariness in the suspension of PCSO-licensed gaming operations, saying there was basis for the closure order and the people involved will be given the opportunity to defend their side during the investigation of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
He noted that in the case of the lotto operations, the NBI was able to immediately determine that there were no irregularities.
“You will note na may immediate result kaagad because the suspension of lotto operations was lifted right away. This is upon an examination or an assessment na wala namang masyadong problema sa lotto operations because these are electronically-operated, by computer,” he explained.
(You will note that there was an immediate result because the suspension of lotto operations was lifted right away. This is upon an examination or an assessment that there are not much problems with the lottery operations because these are electronically-operated, by computer.)
With the lifting of the suspension on lotto operations, Guevarra said the NBI investigation will now cover small town lottery (STL), Peryahan ng Bayan, and Keno operations but he is unable to quantify the amount of revenues these games generate for the PCSO.
“I would say very substantial. But of course not as big as the lotto revenues but very substantial and malaki ang impact rin nyan sa resources ng PCSO (it has a big impact on resources of the PCSO), its ability to continue charitable work,” he said.
Guevarra said given the extensive scope of the operations, he is unable to give a timetable for the NBI’s investigation but he said the bureau hopes to finish its investigation before the end of the year. It will also provide periodic reports.
He said the investigation will look into the operators’ alleged non-remittance of revenues from gaming operations and the alleged failure of PCSO officials to remit to the national treasury.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday accused retired police and military generals of cornering STL franchises from the PCSO and not remitting government’s share of the earnings.
Guevarra said these generals will definitely be covered by the investigation.
PRESIDENT TO NAME 10 PCSO OFFICIALS
Panelo on Wednesday said the President is ready to name about 10 PCSO officials involved in the multi-billion peso corruption scandal.
Guevarra said Friday it will be Duterte's call to name the officials.
“I am not privy to any discussion between the NBI chief and the President. But it appears to me that certain names apparently more notorious ‘ones’ were provided by the PCSO itself,” he said.
“I suppose before he makes any such announcement or declaration, he is guided by some information made available to him. Hindi naman magsasalita yun, magbabanggit ng pangalan kung wala naman siyang pagbabasehan. (He won’t speak, he won’t mention names without bases,” he added.
Panelo had said the President is serious about investigating corruption in the agency even if it has so far lost P250 million in revenues.