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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Senate seeks PCSO report on STL deadbeats behind ₧5-B collectible

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SENATORS on Monday directed the PCSO to submit a detailed, updated report on remittances due to it from Small Town Lottery Authorized Agent Corporations (STL-AAC) operators, amid concern that the revenue due the State from delinquent parties may have reached P5 billion in a span of five years.

At the same time, the PCSO was told to list down the “names behind the corporations” that were accredited to be operators, as well as their “updated GIS” or general information sheet filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The directives were issued toward the end of a hearing by the Games and Amusement Committee chaired by Sen. Raffy Tulfo, now looking into issues raised in two resolutions: Senate Resolution No. 253 on the integrity and trustworthiness of PCSO operations; and SR 466, on allegations that the 5 percent Prize Fund Tax imposed on lottery winnings—which was wrapped into the 20-percent tax imposed under the TRAIN law—is still being collected by PCSO and being remitted to the BIR, even though the TRAIN law is already in effect.

P5-B collectibles

At Monday’s hearing, Tulfo and other senators asked PCSO to clarify the “P5 billion” figure being floated around as the total collectibles of the PCSO from delinquent operators.

PCSO chairman Junie Cua admitted, meanwhile, that he himself was shocked at the immensity of the P5 billion, and said he had moved to ensure all those due from delinquent operators—even from as far back as his predecessors’ time—would be collected in timely manner.

This, as a PCSO lawyer clarified that the P5 billion was estimated as the sums due between 2016 and 2020. In 2020, during the pandemic lockdowns, the agency implemented new rules and since then there have been no unremitted monies.

Nonetheless, senators stressed, the new PCSO management must do everything to collect, and Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III wanted to know if collection cases have been filed and whether these are being pursued aggressively.

It was Pimentel who insisted that the PCSO also provide the Senate a list of not just the corporate names of delinquent operators, but also the “names behind them”, which may be culled from their GIS filings.

Sen. Ronald “Bato” M. Dela Rosa encouraged PCSO executives to exercise due diligence in their investigations on operators who fail to remit earnings to the agency.

Dela Rosa advised the PCSO to consider the possibility that illegal organized groups may be behind STL operators that steal from lottery earnings. The illegal backers of crooked STL operators could have changed business names and figureheads when terminated as partners of the agency, he warned.

“They will just continue to hit and hit and the government will continue to suffer if this continues. Let us use due diligence. These ‘genius’ personalities in gambling operations always deceive the government. Let us be careful so that we will not lose income,” Dela Rosa said in Filipino.

Also at Monday’s public hearing Pimentel, author of Senate Resolution 253, said the common criticism leveled by the betting public against lotto is the “lack of transparency.”

“Since the identity of the winner is not revealed, the people are suspicious whether the conduct of the lottery is above board,” he noted, adding: “Also, the reported lag time between the announcement of the results and the announcement of the number of winners leads people to suspect that this lag time is used to manipulate and insert ‘lucky bettors’ into the list of winners.”

Image credits: Roy Domingo

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