Aquino wants to know why PCSO owes gov’t hospitals P3BBy Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
CALAMBA CITY, Laguna—President Benigno Aquino III wants to know why the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO)—which hands out tens of millions of pesos in lottery prizes—still owes state hospitals P3 billion.
Mr. Aquino said the result is that government hospitals refuse PCSO guarantees presented by poor patients.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Mr. Aquino also said he would ask PCSO Chair Margarita Juico to explain the gaming agency’s alleged spending of P500,000 for public relations to burnish its image.
“I will call Chairman Juico and ask her if that is precisely the case,” Mr. Aquino said when asked about the public relations expenses of the present PCSO board.
“That should be part of the investigation also that is ongoing,” he added.
The President, however, said his priority was to bring back the PCSO to “solid financial footing” to fully meet its mandate of providing for the needs of poor Filipinos.
Charity is first
He expressed concern that the unpaid obligations with state hospitals had caused government institutions to refuse PCSO guarantees presented by indigent patients.
“My first priority as far as PCSO is concerned is the arrears, I understand, with government hospitals to the tune of P3 billion. Their guarantees are no longer accepted by these government hospitals,” he said.
“So what is their function? It’s charity sweepstakes. The charity aspect should be first,” Mr. Aquino said.
He said he couldn’t understand how the PCSO arrears could reach multibillion-peso levels.
“I’m sorry. There’s already a bit of frustration here. The PCSO was set up to take care of indigents. It has arrears of P3 billion with the Lung Center, Heart Center, etc. There are many other situations like these,” the President said.
“Considering the PCSO’s huge amounts set aside as cash prize money for lotteries, “how can you get to the point that a government entity rejects guarantees of another government agency?” Mr. Aquino asked.
“Don’t you think that’s more important?” he said.
Former PCSO director Manuel Morato the other day said the current PCSO board spent more than P500,000 over a three-month period last year for public affairs and reputation “management.” He showed reporters a photo copy of a billing invoice from a company called EON Stakeholder Relations Firm.
Juico said she had no knowledge of such a contract. But she admitted that media practitioner Dante Ang, a public relations consultant for the PCSO is paid P25,000 a month.
In a phone interview Friday with the Inquirer, Ang said: “I’m not part of EON. I don’t know the people behind it.” With a report from Christian V. Esguerra
Ngayon lang naglabasan ang baho ng kabulukan sa PCSO. Isipin mo ba naman na umabot ng 3B ang utang nito sa mga hospitals... Anak ng tinapang galunggong! Eh halos andami dami ng mga tumataya dito at siguradong kumikita ito. Dapat talagang makulong ng habang buhay ang may mga kasong plunder o nangungurakot sa pera ng bayan. Kung pwede lang sanang ibalik ang death penalty gamit ang firing squad.. mas pabor ako doon.