Text by Mylene C. Orillo / Photo by Larry Madarang
“I want to be transparent to the Filipino people. That’s why we publish this [our accomplishments] in newspapers. You can challenge any data na pinublish namin kung mali ito,” declared Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office (PCSO) General Manager Alexander Balutan during the Sama-samang Talakayan at Linawan-PCSO Editoryal forum at the Hotel Malarayat in Lipa City, Batangas recently.
Balutan added that the agency’s first quarter earnings reached P15.98 billion.
The amount represents the combined revenue from all PCSO products namely Lotto, Keno, Sweepstakes, and Small Town Lottery (STL) where the revenue generated a 28.24 percent increase from the same quarter last year, amounting to P12.45 billion.
The highest revenue increase was recorded by the STL with P6.1 billion, an increase of 114.09 percent. STL revenue for the first quarter is also equivalent to 38% of the entire revenue of the agency.
Other products like Keno and Instant Sweepstakes also contributed P1.4 billion (9%) and P663 million (4%), respectively.
“Remember, PCSO is not receiving anything, any single centavo from the taxes of the people. We get our revenues from the gaming public. Kaya alagaan natin ang gaming public. If the gaming public has no confidence [in us], the business is lost. Wala tayo lahat dito. Wala tayong charity ngayon. Wala ‘yung medical upgrade program natin,” he said.
While Lotto and other digit games earned P7.7 billion this quarter, it posted -6.54% decrease from the same period last year.
“Sa Lotto po kasi ang reason kaya bumagsak ng ganyan ‘yan, actually nung January and February, nag-increase ‘yan. Pero for March, meron kasi kaming four days na walang sales during Holy Week. May isa pa din kaming hinaharap, medyo affected ‘yung sales namin sa TRAIN law,” explained Remeliza Gabuyo, assistant general manager for Branch sector.
Lotto and other digit games are also jackpot-prize driven where “the higher the jackpot prize, the higher the sales”.
STL shares for barangays?
On a suggestion that barangays should also have a share of revenues collected from the STL, Balutan said the agency will have to study it as there are many barangays all over the country.
“Itong Small Town Lottery (STL), maraming gustong kumurot dito, especially ngayon. I’ll tell you frankly that this coming election, gustong kumurot lahat. Pero hindi natin mapagbibigyan. Ang purpose natin dito is for charity, not gambling. Kung lahat tayo kukurot diyan, walang matitira sa charity natin,” Balutan said.
The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) provide that cities/municipalities receive monthly 3% shares from the STL net sales; provincial, 0.75%; district, 0.25%; and Philippine National Police (PNP), 2.5%.
All these shares are culled from the 30% charity fund.
In the first quarter, PCSO has already shared a total of P446.6 million to local government units, districts, and the police.
TRAIN (or Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law imposes 20% tax on winnings of more than P10,000 from Lotto, Keno, STL, Sweepstakes, and other PCSO products.
For the first quarter, the agency has paid P3.59 billion taxes to the government. If one wins P100 million, P20 million will automatically deducted from it. From P500 million tax, the agency is now paying an average of P1 billion a month tax.
“’Yan talaga tinututulan namin nung una. Pero natupad pa din ang gusto nila kasi na-di-dissuade ang ating gaming public na tumaya. Ang laki talaga ng nababawas! Pero ganito lang ‘yan, parang inilipat mo lang ‘yung pera mo sa kabilang bulsa mo. Why? In the form of tax eh binigay natin [sa government]. Napupunta din naman ‘yun sa ating bayan, lalo na sa build projects ng ating Pangulo,” explained Balutan.
Since day one of his appointment in 2016, Balutan said he tried to build a good image of PCSO that was tainted with bad reputation from the previous administration.
Early this year, President Duterte appointed former police general Anselmo Simeon Pinili as PCSO Chairman, a position formerly held by former police general Jose Jorge Corpuz.
“We became transparent. Kung walang tiwala sa amin ang tao, hindi kami kikita ng ganyan. Now STL is earning P2 billion a month compared sa mga nakaraang adminsitrasyon na hanggang P400 milyon lamang. Bakit? Maraming kababayan ang naniniwala sa ating adhikain. Figures don’t lie. You can challenge any data,” Balutan said.
“We want to let the public know where their money goes. I would like to appeal to everyone to support PCSO and its products. With more revenues, more funds will be provided to the LGUs and to your constituents. Malaki ang tiwala ng President [Rodrigo Duterte] sa leadership ng PCSO. We shall not fail him,” he added.
On ambulance donation program
Meanwhile, Dr. Larry Cedro, Assistant General Manager (AGM) for Charity Sector, clarified that it does not provide repairs and gas allocation for ambulances donated to local government units and other institutional partners.
But if there are violations to the use of the donated vehicles, this should be reported immediately to the PCSO for appropriate action.
“Part of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between PCSO and the local government unit is this, once the deed of donation was signed, the responsibility of ambulance use and maintenance automatically goes to the beneficiaries,” Cedro said.
One of the complaints that came out was that some donated PCSO ambulances are being used by government officials for personal purposes. And most of the times during emergency situations, patients shoulder the gasoline expenses which should not be the case.
Cedro said that under the MOA beneficiaries are responsible in making sure that the vehicle is in top condition and that the vehicle is readily available for use by their constituents.
“Before we donate ambulances, we look at the capacity of a local government unit or beneficiaries regarding their MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses). Do they have provisions for gas and maintenance?” Cedro said.
He said beneficiaries of the ambulance program were also well informed of PCSO’s monitoring system and it has already received reports from concerned individuals regarding ambulance misuse. Once the agency has established that there is a violation on the use of vehicle, it can readily be forfeited.
“If you know any vehicles that are misused, please report to us. We have our own monitoring system to validate that claim. It’s easy for us to say those things, but we need to substantiate everything. We need facts and documents,” he said.
He further revealed that the agency has already attended to some cases with violations and forfeited the vehicles.
Remeliza Gabuyo, AGM for Branch Operations, revealed that PCSO has already pulled out some ambulances for misuse and violations of the MOA.
At present, PCSO has a new program for ambulance donation and it is shifting its priority from ordinary ambulance to an advanced life support.
The agency now adheres to the new Department of Health (DOH) circular shifting from ambulance to patient-transport vehicle. DOH has also issued a new administrative order to regulate the use and registration of vehicles as an ambulance.
“DOH has observed that both the PCSO as a national government agency and the local government units purchase ambulances left and right and yet the dilemma remains the same [misuse, unauthorized used, no gas, etc.),” Cedro said.
He reiterated for the public to report claims of unauthorized use or misuse of ambulances.
“They may post photos on social media. PCSO committee or monitoring group will make sure to validate those evidences and/or claims and act on it accordingly,” he said.
For First, Second, and Third-class municipalities, PCSO gives a 60-40 scheme where the agency shoulders the 60 percent and the LGUs cover the 40 percent. But for Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth-class municipalities, ambulances are given for free on the condition that they can maintain them.
“PCSO does not give allocation for gas and repairs. It is incumbent upon the beneficiary to assume that requirement in so far as maintenance is concerned,” Cedro said.
“We do not have to remind them [local government officials] every now and then how to maintain it because prior to the turnover, the MOA already contains the briefer, rules and regulations being imposed by the agency regarding its utilization,” he added.
ASAP desk complaints
Cedro also assured that complaints arising from ASAP (At-Source-Ang-Processing) Desks with partner-hospitals will be acted upon to improve the delivery of charity services to patients.
This is in response to complaints of erring social workers in some partner-hospitals and those who give preferential treatment or priority to their relatives, friends, or close acquaintances.
He said that with the public’s empowerment through social media and other mediums, PCSO is more conscious and aware of the public’s feedback.
“‘Wag ho sanang matakot ang publiko na kapag nagsumbong mas magiging mahigpit or pahihirapan sila. On the part of PCSO, we encourage them to report because there’s a reason for us to assist them because they’re cooperating with us. Kung meron kayong nababalitaan [na ‘di maganda], report them to the head of or branch offices, the managers, or via social media accounts,” Cedro said.
In view of this, Cedro said they will study the possibility of hiring their own registered social workers to man the desks.
At present, the staff manning the ASAP Desks are organic staff of the partner-hospitals.
“Prior to the deployment of these staff, the agency has oriented them on the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Individual Medical Assistance Program (IMAP),” he said.
The IMAP is the flagship program of PCSO under Charity Assistance Department. It is designed to attend to the financial needs of all individuals with health-related problems through the provision of financial assistance.
The desks are the point of access to IMAP established through a partnership between the agency and hospitals that directly provide various health interventions to patients.
The role of the social worker is to evaluate and acknowledge the application and then do the profiling of patients to establish socio-economic condition and classification.
Cedro revealed that they had received complaints filed through Hotline 888 and called the attention of the personnel and hospitals involved by sending them a letter and requiring them to explain their side.
Social workers were also reminded of the protocol that “they are the extension of the government in a way. The expectation from them is similar to what we do [in the main office]”, and those who were proven guilty were already sanctioned (e.g. rotated or replaced).
Cedro, however, admitted that it’ll be a challenge on the agency’s part to hire registered social workers organic to PCSO to man ASAP Desks, mainly due to the availability of plantilla position, or a government approved listing of positions.
“The desire to make them organic to PCSO will be a challenge on our part, primarily on the plantilla or organizational structure. Meron kasi tayong requirement. We welcome the issue. But to curb that issue, we encourage the public to report to us any cases that you can consider as questionable, should there be preferential treatment, or other related activities na sa tingin niyo hindi tama,” said Cedro.
Cedro shared that ASAP Desk was initially launched in St. Luke’s Global and Quezon City in 2011. They also visited several government and private hospitals, but only one hospital acknowledged. From one ASAP Desk, it increased to 26 in April 2015.
“‘Pag nalaman nila ‘yung benefits ng program, sila na mismo ang lumalapit sa amin. With the help of our branch managers, we try to validate their capacity to join the program,” said Cedro.
Currently, there are 86 partner hospitals under ASAP Desks both in private and government hospitals nationwide. Out of 86 ASAP Desks with memorandum of agreement, 58 are operational. “PCSO does not give allocation for gas and repairs. It is incumbent upon the beneficiary to assume that requirement in so far as maintenance is concerned,” Cedro said.
“What’s in it for us is the willingness [of the local government unit] to become partner hospitals. The requirement now is for the patient to transact business directly with the social services of the partner institution instead of them going to our main office,” Cedro said.