Hontiveros on lotto resumption: 'Buti nahimasmasan na si Pangulo'

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday, July 31, expressed relief that President Rodrigo Duterte has "finally come to his senses" by lifting the suspension of lotto operations.

Hontiveros mde the statement the morning after President Rodrigo Duterte allowed lotto outlets licensed by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to resume operations just days after he ordered the shutdown of all  PCSO games due to alleged "massive corruption."

"Buti naman at nahimasmasan na si Pangulong Duterte at na-lift na ang ban sa PCSO lotto (It's good that President Duterte has come to his senses and lifted the ban on PCSO lotto)," Hontiveros said in a tweet.

Hontiveros said the President should now "go after those small town lottery franchises fronting for jueteng, strongly regulate Chinese online gambling, and stop recycling corrupt officials."

Malacañang had said that the President lifted the suspension of lotto operations after it was established that it was not tainted by corruption – a point already made by lawmakers like Senator Panfilo Lacson early on. The decision had sparked concern about how the PCSO would fund its social programs, especially its medical subsidy for the poor.

In just 4 days of suspended lotto operations, the PCSO lost P250 million in revenues.

Lotto is 'clean'

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that he agreed with the President's decision.

"I'm told lotto operations are clean. I concur with the President's move," Sotto said.

While some observed that Duterte had made a haphazard, uninformed decision by initially suspending lotto operations as well, Senator Lito Lapid said on Wednesday that the President's decision to lift the shutdown order on lotto was "proof" that his investigation was going somewhere.

"Ang muling pagbubukas ng operasyon ng lotto sa buong bansa ay patunay na umuusad ang ginagawang imbestigasyon ng Pangulo tungkol sa anomalya sa PCSO…. Kasama ako sa maraming naghihintay na matapos ang imbestigasyong ginagawa at malaman kung sino-sino ang mga personalidad na nasa likod ng korupsiyon sa PCSO," Lapid said.

(The resumption of lotto operations nationwide is a proof that the investigation on alleged anomalies in the PCSO being conducted by the President is moving. I am among the many Filipinos waiting for the investigation to be completed, to know the personalities behind corruption at the PCSO.)

Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, for his part, thanked the President for making the decision as part of the Universal Health Care Act's fund will come from 40% of the total PCSO charity fund.

"Nagpapasalamat tayo sa desisyon ng Pangulo na ipagpatuloy na ang operasyon ng lotto. Wala nang panganib na magkaka-aberya ang pagsasatupad ng Universal Health Care Act at iba pang mga programa ng gobyerno para sa ating mga kababayan dahil sa kakulangan ng pondo,"  said Angara, one of the proponents of the free health care law.

(We thank the President for his decision to resume lotto operations. There will no longer be a threat to the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act and other programs of the government that may be affected by the shortage of funds.)

On Tuesday, Senator Richard Gordon said that the powerful Senate blue ribbon committee will probe alleged irregularities in the PCSO.

The President's sudden blanket verbal order stopping operations of all PCSO gaming formats in order to curb "massive corruption" had been widely criticized. (READ: Legal issues with Duterte's PCSO gaming shutdown)

In March, PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan was sacked over allegations of corruption. He was replaced by Cebu City Police Director Royina Garma, who said that she is "open to any probe." – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.