The resumption of Small Town Lottery (STL) operations will not result in more corruption, Malacañang assured Friday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this statement following President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to lift the suspension of the popular numbers game, as long as STL agents could meet the conditions set by the government.
“The conditions are very onerous on the part of the STL… Mahihirapan na silang magkaroon ng excuse (It will be difficult for them to find an excuse) not to remit or to swindle the government with respect to their shares to be remitted to the government,” Panelo said in a media briefing.
Duterte in July ordered a stop to STL, along with other gaming operations, licenses and franchises of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) on the suspicion of corruption. PCSO General Manager Royina Garma on Thursday announced the resumption of STL operations, along with the conditions the authorized agent corporations (AACs) have to meet.
The new rules require AACs to deposit with the PCSO a cash bond equivalent to three months of the government’s share of the guaranteed minimum monthly retail receipts. This would be forfeited in favor of the PCSO if the AACs fail to remit on time. STL operators’ contracts with the PCSO will be automatically terminated if they violate the conditions of their franchise or any of the new conditions set by the government.
Malacañang earlier lamented that the government was not getting its fair share from PCSO operations. Lawmakers, including Senator and former Philippine National Police chief Ping Lacson, have called on the government to shut down STL, as they are used as a front for the illegal numbers game jueteng.
Panelo said he will ask the President why he allowed STL to resume pending investigation results. It was the PCSO that made such recommendation to the President.
During the Senate hearing on the proposed 2020 budget for the PCSO on Friday, Garma revealed that 60 operators who did not remit properly in the past have paid their dues following the suspension of their operations.
“I gave them two weeks to comply. If not, then a termination order will be issued,” Garma said. She added that the PCSO is planning to automate STL operations to avoid the scheme where the kubrador or collectors do not faithfully remit to their operators.
The latest Commission on Audit report on the PCSO found the agency has yet to remit ₱8.4 billion to the government. State auditors also called out the state lottery agency for waiving ₱1.43 billion in claims from STL agents. From January to June this year, STL revenues amounted to ₱12.6 billion. In 2018, the STL had the second highest revenues among the PCSO-licensed games, next to Lotto.