Sandra Cam seeks Senate probe of 'lavish' PCSO Christmas party

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 22 2017 10:02 AM | Updated as of Dec 22 2017 10:15 AM

MANILA - Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Sandra Cam on Friday said she will seek a Senate investigation into the agency's Christmas party which allegedly cost about P10 million.

Cam said the PCSO spent around P9.88 million for a party at a "five-star" hotel in Mandaluyong on December 19, but PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan claimed the agency spent only P6 million, according to a newspaper report.

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Cam, who had blown the whistle on the jueteng payola scandal in 2005, said she skipped the "grandiose" party in protest of the controversial spending.

"We are serving Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. Dapat charity, hindi yung lulustayin mo ang kaban ng bayan, ang pera ni Juan dela Cruz," she told ANC's Headstart.

She said she will push for an audit of the party and file charges against the officials in line with this issue, apart from the Senate investigation.

She said President Rodrigo Duterte placed her in the PCSO post to be the chief executive's "eyes and ears" inside the agency, as she asserted that she was not after Balutan's position.

"I’m not after for your job as general manager or chairman. Malayo yan sa isip ko. Ako ay pumasok sa PCSO bilang director upon instructions of the President to do good and that’s it…Hindi lang kayo pwedeng gumawa na ng kat******uhan diyan habang andiyan ako," she said.

In the interview, Cam showed documents which supposedly showed the PCSO spent about P3.3 million for the food and venue reservation at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel and another P3.7 million for raffle prizes during the party.

She said she spoke to Balutan, a former military major general, to not push through with such a party, but was told that "it’s already been allocated and it's above board, no problem."

In a separate interview, Balutan said the board approved about P10 million "for purposes of planning" of the party, but spent only about P6.2 million.

"I don’t think yung preparation diyan grandiose or lavish, with 1,580 plus persons catered—nationwide po yan, di lang dito sa Shaw, considering yung food, special effects, sound system and others," he told ANC's Market Edge.

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Balutan said they had to hold the party in the hotel for the "theatrical performances" of the employees, a yearly PCSO tradition.

He added, compared to previous Christmas parties hosted by the agency for its employees, the recently concluded one cost "way below."

As to Cam's pronouncements on an audit and a legislative inquiry, Balutan said "she can do that anytime."

"We are ready to answer her," he said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said President Duterte would look into the controversial Christmas party.

“I think you know that the President does not tolerate extravagance. As you know, he’s very sensitive to what is reported by his own people in the different branches of government,” he told reporters.

The President just recently sacked appointees over excessive travels.