MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said there is no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to issue a written order to stop Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) games.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo claimed this was unnecessary because Duterte's verbal order was already "legal."
"Hindi kailangan (It's not needed). The directive of the President, even if verbal, is legal," Panelo said in a news briefing on on Tuesday, July 30.
"If it's legal, you don't have to put down in writing," he added.
Panelo, who is also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, echoed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who said news coverage of Duterte giving the order was sufficient record of it. (READ: Legal issues with Duterte's PCSO gaming shutdown)
Asked if Duterte was observing due process with his sweeping order that took effect on July 27, Panelo said the Chief Executive could impose such an order because the PCSO is a "creation of the Office of the President."
"It's a creation of the Office of the President so if it's the creation of the Office of the President, the President can do that," said Panelo.
However, the PCSO was created by an act of Congress, not Malacañang. It was created by Republic Act No. 1169 or the PCSO Charter. The law was later on amended by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos' Presidential Decree No. 1157 and Batas Pambansa Blg. 42.
Asked what law allows the President to stop PCSO from pursuing its mandate of holding gaming operations in order to generate health care funds, Panelo cited a provision in the 1987 Constitution often invoked by Duterte himself to justify other controversial decisions.
"The Constitution provides that the President's prime duty is to serve and protect the Filipino people. That is the underlying provision of all the actions of the President," said Panelo.
Duterte has displayed a penchant for giving orders verbally, without following through with written documents that state the parameters and legal bases of his decisions. Rappler has counted 6 other such verbal-only orders.
Political science professor Ela Atienza has pointed out that this could be dangerous, since written orders are a way to hold public officials accountable and prevent abuse of their powers.
“Written orders make the decisions official. If not written, it is easy to deny that he gave orders,” said Atienza.
Duterte's verbal order did not indicate how long the closure of PCSO-licensed gaming outlets would last. The order puts at risk the livelihood of tens of thousands of workers of these outlets, billions worth of medical subsidies poor Filipinos rely on, and the implementation of the Universal Health Care law.
The PCSO is the "principal government agency for raising and providing for funds for health programs, medical assistance and services, and charities of national character," according to its charter.
Its main means of raising such funds is regulation of lotteries and other games. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.