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PCSO badly needs reforms

/ 11:25 PM June 14, 2015

If you have passed by the main office of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office in Quezon City or any of its satellite offices, you must have noticed the long lines of people outside the offices. They are impoverished Filipinos asking for financial help from the PCSO for their medical needs.

Why are the lines so long? Because there are so many impoverished Filipinos seeking PCSO help and social workers interview each one to make sure they are really deserving of help.

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Every single day, the PCSO allocates P18 million for them, yet not all of those in line get any help. Once the P18 million daily budget is allocated, the processing of applicants stops. Those not processed for that day are asked to come back the next day and they would be first to be interviewed.

Why can’t the PCSO allocate more than the P18-million daily budget? You would think that with the billions of pesos it makes from the sale of lotto, sweepstakes and small town lottery (STL) tickets, the PCSO can afford to give more. By the way, the PCSO does not give cash, only letters to hospitals, guaranteeing payment for the hospital bills of the beneficiaries.

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True, the PCSO makes billions of pesos in ticket sales, but much of this is mandated by law to be given to other agencies. Most lawmakers who cannot find funding for their projects add to the laws they propose that funding for them will be sourced from the PCSO.

Hence, although the PCSO is the primary government agency mandated to provide direct charity assistance for the medical needs of the country’s indigent patients, much of its funds go to other government agencies.

With the abolition of the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, members of Congress now send their needy constituents to the PCSO. The number of indigent patients going to the PCSO for help has thus increased tremendously. Clearly, something has to be done to increase PCSO’s income.

For so many years, people in need of medical assistance and with nowhere else to go but the PCSO have not seen any visible improvement in the delivery of services by the agency. Until now, there are still hospitals that refuse to accept PCSO “guaranty letters” for fear of not getting paid or the bills ending up as collectibles for a long period of time.

Now, the PCSO has a new chair, Irineo “Ayong” Maliksi, three-time governor and two-time congressman of Cavite. He has promised reforms. When he was a congressman, he allocated a large part of his pork barrel to the Philippine General Hospital, Philippine Heart Center and National Kidney and Transplant Institute as a trust fund to help the hospital needs of his constituents.

One of the reforms Maliksi is thinking of to increase PCSO income is to increase ticket sales through more creative marketing promotions such as instilling in the minds of the people that when they buy a lotto, sweepstakes or STL ticket, they not only have a chance to win huge prizes; they also help to raise funds for charity that helps many of their countrymen.

Also being eyed by Maliksi is how to generate more revenues from the STL, which is popular in the provinces, especially in Central Luzon.

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Established to eradicate the illegal numbers game “jueteng,” the STL has generated only P4.7 billion in revenues last year,

Maliksi noted. He said that if properly managed, it can raise P15 billion this year.

The bitter truth is that jueteng operators are winning the war against STL. Instead of eradicating the illegal numbers game, STL is in danger of being eradicated by jueteng. The reasons are very easy to see, but PCSO officials seem unable to see them.

One is the ease of placing bets on jueteng. Collectors or “cobradors” of jueteng go from house to house, even in remote barrios, to collect bets. When a lucky bettor wins, the cobrador delivers the good news and the prize money to him. He gets a part of the prize money as “balato” from the winner; the jueteng operator also gives him a percentage of the bets he collected during the day.

The cobrador also whets the appetite of potential bettors by telling them who won the day before and how much. He also interprets dreams into numbers that the dreamer can bet on.

On the other hand, a bettor who wants to place his bet on the STL has to go to town to buy STL tickets. He has to go back the next day to find out what numbers won. He also has to collect his winnings in town and take them to the barrio where he lives at the risk of being held up on the way home. So if you were a bettor, where would you place your bet?

And yet, the STL has an advantage over jueteng whose operators are often suspected of cheating. The drawing of the winning jueteng numbers is always done in secret. It is said that only small bets are allowed to win; big bets never win.

On the other hand, the drawing of STL’s winning numbers can be made in the town plaza with everybody watching, so there is no opportunity to cheat. STL should also use cobradors.

A part of the STL earnings should also go to the local government unit to increase the salaries of policemen and other employees so they would go after jueteng operations and not accept bribes from them. The more STL earns, the bigger their benefits.

Also, the whole town should benefit from the STL’s earnings. The bigger its income, the bigger benefits for the town. Instead of betting on jueteng, therefore, the people would bet on the STL.

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TAGS: ayong maliksi, Government, opinion, PCSO, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, reforms
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