PAGCOR offers P2.5B for health projects

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 24 2016 12:54 AM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has about P2.5 billion to spend on health-related projects from the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

This was revealed by PAGCOR Chairman Andrea Domingo to members of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday evening. 

Speaking to reporters, Domingo said: "Yes, it will be spent for health. In the last administration, the same type of fund was spent on education."

This amount will be disbursed in accordance with Section 7a of the PAGCOR Charter, which empowers the PAGCOR board "to allocate and distribute, with the approval of the Office of the President of the Philippines, the earnings of the Corporation earmarked to finance infrastructure and socio-civic projects."

Domingo said that in the previous administration, P12 billion that would have gone to the Presidential Social Fund was instead transferred to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Education (DepEd) for school-building projects. These received P9 billion and P3 billion in funds, respectively.

The Supreme Court in 2013 made declared the use of Presidential Social Fund as unconstitutional when it outlawed the pork barrel system, therefore limiting the use of the fund to restoration of damages from calamities.

Roderick Consolacion, PAGCOR assistant vice president, told lawmakers, "(Year) 2014 pumasok 'yung Belgica case wherein nag-declare ang Supreme Court part of PAGCOR Charter is unconstitutional."

Domingo told lawmakers that the President wants to tap PAGCOR money for health projects.

"Ang alam ko, he wanted medicine available to everybody who needs it and who cannot pay for it. Ang akin pong tingin, bibigyan niya ng somehow, the resource will be given to the different hospitals and clinics. Gusto niya talaga mag-concentrate sa pagbibigay ng gamot," Domingo explained.

AKO Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe noted the absence of concrete plans, prompting Domingo to suggest that lawmakers make their own suggestions that PAGCOR can endorse to the President for approval.

"Baka puwede ho mangyari, 'yung andito gumawa ng suggested health programs. Puwede endorse namin. Mag-request po kayo sa amin at i-endorse namin kay President for approval... Lahat po ng recommendations gagawan ng evaluation at recommendation for the President," Domingo said. 

Upon questioning, Consolacion said the previous administration's school-building program was charged to PAGCOR's operating expenses, drawing the objection of Albay Rep. Joey Salceda. 

"Thats an opex (operating expense). My God, do you know that it is a violation of accounting rules. You're declaring school buildings as part of the charitable. Ang laki-laki naman noon, ma'am. Iligal 'yan. Ikaw, saan niyo paghugutan 'yung ipinangako niya kay Duterte. Walang legal basis kasi sinasabi mo na school buildings is a natural operating expense of PAGCOR," Salceda said.

Meanwhile, Domingo revealed that two casino operators, Resorts World and Okada, have offered to build drug abuse rehabilitation centers as part of their contributions to the war on drugs.

As of 2015, PAGCOR gave about P30 billion to the National Treasury from its earnings. 

Domingo said 50% of PAGCOR's net income must be remitted to the Treasury. However, PAGCOR's operating expenses also include spending for social responsibility projects.

Last year's net income was at P3.77 billion, of which P1.89 billion was remitted to the Treasury as dividend.

PAGCOR income however is on the downtrend, which Domingo said was because of the closure of the state gamer's e-Games business.

Domingo also revealed they are mulling the closure of two casinos for underaged gambling. 

"E-bingo, papasarhan namin. Kailngan ko lang ng board approval. May nag-gamble na 17 years old. Pinabayaan nila mag-gamble repeatedly in the two stations," Domingo said.

However, the PAGCOR chief did not identify the two stations.