Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) opened on Sept. 10 its 64th branch office at the Provincial Capitol in Buluan, Maguindanao and the first PCSO branch opened at the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“This is in line with our mission to bring our services closer to the public and to be present in every province. That’s why our target is to put up one PCSO branch every province,” said PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan who graced the opening ceremony.
Maguindanao is a province in the Philippines located in the ARMM. It is home to tri-people—the Muslims, Christians, and Lumads.
Balutan, a former Marine general who spent 20 years in Mindanao, revealed that he knew exactly what the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao needed badly, apart from infrastructure and education.
“They need basic health services and immediate medical support from the government. They need to feel the government’s presence through PCSO,” said Balutan.
Contrary to the general impressions that Mindanao has become unsafe for tourists, Assistant General Manager for Branch Operations Sector Remeliza Gabuyo shared otherwise.
“Madali namang nag-open ang PCSO branch dahil very cooperative naman si [Maguindanao] Governor Esmael Mangudadatu. They even provided for a free space to house our Maguindanao branch kasi ang magbi-benefit naman are constituents of Maguindanao. They will not go to South Cotabato anymore or to Davao City to travel just to avail of our charity assistance and all other services,” said Gabuyo.
Gabuyo revealed that they saw the potential of Maguindanao not only for charity services, but also for gaming.
“Kakaunti pa lang ang ating Lotto outlets doon. Mag-ma-market pa tayo doon,” said Gabuyo.
During the opening ceremony, PCSO main office gave P1 million endowment fund to PCSO Maguindanao Branch located in Puluan District.
“It is a one-time assistance pero kapag na-liquidate immediately, we will again evaluate them for another assistance,” added Gabuyo.
Gabuyo admitted that for now, only Davao Province has At-Source-Ang-Processing (ASAP) Desks in their hospitals, but the agency is planning to tie up with hospitals in Maguindanao through this endowment fund.
Gabuyo assured that PCSO will not reject anyone and will cater to everyone from whatever religion, including the enemies of the State.
“Itong PCSO Branch Office natin open sa lahat kahit na sino, kahit anong religion. Open kahit sa mga kalaban ng gobyerno, wala tayong iri-reject,” she said.
For this year, Gabuyo revealed that PCSO will add three more branches in Surigao del Norte, Guimaras, Quezon, and Saranggani Province, hoping to bring the services closer to the people.
“Temporary lang naman ‘yan kasi ‘yung unexpected na TRAIN law. Inaayos naman lahat. We are hoping na maayos. Kasi parang ang takbuhan naman nila is PCSO. Nag-increase talaga lahat ng humihingi ng assistance. Magpa-prioritize lang ng projects,” commented Gabuyo on the recent cutting of charity funds.
In closing, Gabuyo called for the public to continue supporting PCSO products.
“Kasi doon lahat nanggaling ang pondo for charity sa gaming activities We cannot give what we do not have kaya let us support PCSO products.”
The opening ceremony was also attended by Gloria Ybanez, Department Manager, Mindanao Officer, Misael A. Hamak, OIC-Branch Manager of South Cotabato/Sultan Kudarat, Gina Bernabe, and the local government officials of Maguindanao.
PCSO’s new budget allocation for charity fund
Through the Charity Assistance Department, PCSO also defended its new budget allocation for medical assistance after it drew mixed reactions from patients and relatives.
“In as much as we wanted to help everyone, we need to stick with our budget for this year. We are over utilizing our budget. Hopefully this is temporary. Rest assured we are doing our best to accommodate all your requests,” said PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan.
“In so far as the budget is concerned, it’s always been P4.1 million, but we recognize that there was really an increase in the number of individuals asking for help which resulted to over-utilization. What we did is to strictly implement and adhere to the prescribed daily budget,” said Dr. Larry Cedro, Assistant General Manager for Charity Sector.
Recently, PCSO has modified its budget allocation program for its medical assistance services due to overutilization of funds.
The Individual Medical Assistance Program (IMAP) has already exceeded its utilization by more than P500 million. This is also attributed to a marked increase in the number of beneficiaries availing of financial support from the agency by 27.93 percent for the first semester of 2018 compared to its 2017 data of the same period.
“We are reminded that in 2016, the Commission on Audit issued an Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) cautioning the agency for overspending. The agency was advised to review and prioritize its expenses and it should be duly supported by the supplemental budget”.
“We explained that it’s hard to turn away clients because they rely heavily on PCSO’s role. But we have to acknowledge the fact that we cannot have a repeat on what happened in 2016. If there’s overutilization, we face the risk of receiving another AOM. That’s the reason why we immediately applied the remedial measure,” explained Cedro.
Prior to 2010, Cedro revealed that the agency only operated with around P2 million per day for IMAP as compared to what the PCSO has allocated now.
“You have to observe budget allocation. How do you address that? You put a cap as to the number of patients being attended to,” he said.
Cedro also dispelled rumors that the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP), PCSO’s satellite office, is only accepting 100 patients a day.
“Hindi totoo ‘yung na-receive n’yo na information na 100 patients lang ang na-serve. It’s more than 200 patients,” said Cedro.
While there are lines dedicated for senior citizens, persons with disability, and the regular patients, Cedro said he gave specific instructions to monitor the budget strictly. Once they reached the cap, the social workers have to stop accepting applications.
As for PCSO Branches, Cedro confirmed that the agency has maintained the P18 million daily budget, however, he clarified that the provision of services is anchored on the hospital where the patient is receiving the treatment and not where he lives.
“If the patient is coming from Bulacan but the treatment is being done in Manila, then LCP will have to attend to it. That’s the rule. Primarily because we wanted to make sure there is coordination, and our social services through the branch operations sector are the ones coordinating in their area of jurisdiction,” Cedro explained.
“Let’s say a patient in Aklan needs to be treated in Iloilo, it’s not our Aklan Branch who will handle it, rather the Iloilo Branch. Kung nakatira s’ya sa Batangas at yung hospital where the treatment is being conducted is in Batangas, Batangas Branch Office ang dapat mag-process ng kanilang request for assistance. Subali’t, kung sa Batangas s’ya nakatira pero ang treatment n’ya is in Manila, our Satellite Office in LCP dapat mag-apply since ito ang nakakasakop sa Manila. We have to remind everyone that filing and processing of assistance is anchored on the location of the institution or the health facility where treatment is being done,” he added.
The PCSO Charter, or RA 1169, particularly on revenue allocation, provides that the revenue of the PCSO shall be allocated to 55 percent for prize fund (payment of prizes), 30 percent for charity fund (various charity programs and service) and 15 percent as operating fund (maintenance and operating expenses).
Charity fund is still divided into two components: 60 percent of which is for Individual Medical Assistance Program (IMAP) and other charity programs such as Ambulance Donation, Calamity Assistance, Medical and Dental Mission, and others; while 40 percent is for mandatory contributions of PCSO to almost 28 government agencies like Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), among many others.
“Yung issue on mandatory contribution is quite complex since these are covered by Republic Acts and Executive Orders. The only way for these laws/orders to be repealed is through Congress or the Office of the President,” stressed Cedro.