by Mylene C. Orillo / Photos by F. Zaff S. Solmerin
The trust and confidence of the gaming public to the various lottery games of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) is high and the agency is optimistic to achieve its P60-billion target this year or even surpass it by just looking at its first two-month performance.
“Our overall sales in just two months amounted to P10.89 billion—a 37.32% increase from its sales on the same months last year. In January alone, PCSO earned P5.611 billion from all its games, which is a 44.34% increase from its sales in January last year. Same goes in February, PCSO earned P5.28 billion, which is a 30.58% increase from its sales for the same month last year,” said Balutan.
Compared last year, PCSO only earned a total of P7.93 billion from all its games, namely Lotto (6/42, Mega Lotto 6/45, Super Lotto 6/49, Grand Lotto 6/55, and Ultra Lotto 6/58) and Digit (4, 6, 3-Digits and EZ2).
Keno, Small Town Lottery (STL), Sweepstakes, and Instant Sweepstakes Tickets are also included.
“Despite the newly imposed lottery tax, the response of our gaming public has been very positive overall. If this growth continues every month, we will definitely hit our target this year, or even more!” said Balutan.
Apart from increasing revenue collections this year, Balutan revealed that the agency is also planning to implement the rationalization plan among its employees, add more branches, and build a headquarters or corporate center for PCSO.
“Some of our employees have been here for years, but on contractual status. We see the need to really implement the rationalization plan so they can get permanent positions. We will start reviewing the status of our employees to make sure that only the competent, qualified, and well-deserved employees will earn the position or promotion. We will make sure that the selection and appointment of our employees will undergo a fair and equal process,” said Balutan.
As for the branches, the agency has 63 branches across the country with the opening of seven new branches last year in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Catanduanes, Sultan Kudarat, Eastern Samar, Biliran, Davao del Norte, and Ifugao.
“Our target for year 2018 is to open up to 8 new branches. If we accomplish this, we only need to build 10 more in the coming years and before 2022, we would have established a branch in 81 provinces,” he revealed.
Apart from PCSO’s permanent home, Balutan is also looking into having a strong Information and Security Risk Management Plan and Information Security Policy and acquiring an ISO certification for the agency.
Rise of STL
Compared to jueteng, the government earns more from STL. In fact, the February sales of Small Town Lottery (STL) hit P1.94 billion, which is a 4.13-percent increase from its P1.87 billion sales in January.
“We would like to attribute the increase in our STL revenues to the number of operating AACs, which is 83, compared to 20 AACs in January 2017, and their PMRR [Presumptive Monthly Retail Receipt], and of course to the gaming public who continues to support our lottery and number games,” said Balutan.
STL is a regular game by PCSO authorized by the national government through Section 1 of Republic Act 1169.
AACs are corporations or cooperatives duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), respectively that applied, been duly qualified and expressly authorized by the PCSO to conduct STL in a particular area.
The PCSO Charter, or RA 1169, particularly on revenue allocation, provides that the revenue of the PCSO shall be allocated to 55% for prize fund (payment of prizes), 30% for charity fund (various charity programs and service) and 15% as operating fund (maintenance and operating expenses).
Since the launch of STL in 2006, the earnings were fixed only from P4.7 billion to P5 billion. That time, there were only 18 operating AACs.
Then PCSO Board studied why it was stuck to 18 AACs and found out that the system is controlled by big gambling lords.
“Ayaw nilang i-expand, dagdagan, o palawakin ang STL sa mga probinsya kung saan malakas ang jueteng at iba dahil talagang matatalo ang mga gambling lord na ito. Wala silang mapagkukunana ng pampayola nila sa mga inaalagaan nilang korap na opisyal para tuloy ang kanilang illegal na gawain,” said Balutan.
In February 2017, PCSO launched its expanded STL. From 18 AACs, the Board approved 56 until the addition of even more AACs, hence it became 92.
In May the same year, STL gained an average earning of more than P1 billion.
Year 2017 ended with STL making a history due to its record-breaking earnings at P15,750.895,045 with a 183.63 percent increase from the P6,462,304,820 in 2016. It opened 280,722 jobs as against P173,861 jobs in 2016.
The fall of jueteng and the gambling lords
However in November 2017, a notorious gambling lord in the country was quick to protest and said that the earnings should have been P5 billion to P6 billion.
“This gambling lord pockets P2.37 billion a month from jueteng and other forms of illegal numbers game. With the expansion of STL operations, his area narrowed and his operations were slowly perishing,” said Balutan.
This gambling lord is reportedly “orchestrating the sudden noise on jueteng” and funding media campaigns to discredit government officials allegedly receiving payola from the racket.
But amidst all the attempts to destroy the image of the agency and his reputation, Balutan assured the people who look up to PCSO for deliverance and the betting public as well that he will not allow it – not during his term.
“I shall not fail the President and the countless indigent patients who look up to PCSO for deliverance. I shall guard the PCSO with my life if necessary, against those who might want to destroy it so that they can take over our gaming operations at the expense of the PCSO and the people. I will not allow it. Not while I’m around,” he said.
Renewed hope for STL
In the past, much has already been done to curtail or eradicate jueteng but had not been successful.
STL was first launched by then President Corazon Aquino in 1987, hoping to stamp out jueteng and illegal numbers game.
While jueteng involves a pair of numbers from 1 to 37 and STL choices are from 1 to 40 and were drawn locally compared to PCSO-run lotto, both involved betting on two-number combination and similar mechanics.
A House inquiry found that STL franchises had been awarded to the same people behind jueteng and was being used as front by jueteng operators. It ended the first STL operations in 1990.
In 2005, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo revived STL with PCSO as the lead operating agency.
On December 28, 2005, the PCSO Board of Directors approved a resolution, calling for a test run of the S-T-L. Resolution No. 464 likewise, effected the approval of rules and regulations governing the STL operations in selected pilot areas in Luzon.
In February 2006, PCSO launched the new, reinforced STL, incorporating the lessons learned from the first STL, under a test-run mode.
By operating under a test-run mode for a period of a year, the PCSO was able to adopt changes needed to make the game effective as a local governments-based charity mechanism for PCSO, even as the new STL provided livelihood for those displaced by President Arroyo’s anti-jueteng campaign.
By end of 2007, PCSO has launched the STL in 15 approved test-run areas. These include: Quezon province, Angeles City, Bataan, Occidental Mindoro, Pampanga, Laguna, Bulacan, Negros Oriental, Iloilo City, Tarlac, Oriental Mindoro, Ilocos Norte, Albay, Olongapo City, Batangas.
During its first year of operations (2006-2007), STL generated revenues totaling to more than P3 billion, creating about 62,500 jobs and livelihood for displaced cabos and cobradores, as well as for the organic staff of the agent-corporations.