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Cleaning PCSO

By Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI, Diplomate

The House of Representatives, the Senate, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission on Audit and even the Office of the President need to immediately look into the allegations and counter-allegations of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) officials against one another.

The issue about the “grandiose” Christmas party of the agency is not really about whose budget figure is correct – PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan’s figure of R6 million or PCSO Director Sandra Cam’s figure of P9.5 million.

The real issue in Director Cam’s expose is the propriety of spending even P6 million for the agency’s Christmas party even with GM Balutan’s pronouncement that the 1,580 PCSO employees deserved the party for working hard in increasing the earnings of the agency.

The PCSO Christmas party issue needs to be appreciated against the Constitutional prescription for government officials and employees to live modest lives and the core policy of the Duterte Administration for the prudent use of public funds and other resources. Can PCSO GM Balutan and PCSO Chairman Jorge Corpuz consider a party at a ballroom in one of the prime hotels modest? Can they also say that such party was a prudent way of spending PCSO funds, which, for all intents and purposes, are owned by the people.

The “defense” of GM Balutan that Director Cam’s expose is a demolition job against him and Chair Corpuz is not a defense at all. He simply needs to prove that the amount spent for the agency’s Christmas party was necessary in fulfilling the specific mission of the agency to serve the interest of the Filipino people.

While GM Balutan’s counter-claim against Director Cam for allegedly lobbying for a nationwide Small Town Lottery (STL) license for known gambling operator Charlie “Atong” Ang cannot clear him and other concerned PCSO officials from the “grandiose” PCSO Christmas party issue, it should nonetheless be looked into as well by the concerned government agencies.

It is also not legal, ethical and proper for any individual, group or organization to get something from the government because of mere “influence.” Even if the timing of GM Balutan’s expose of the alleged lobbying is now put into question since such lobbying happened in 2016, the allegation needs to be probed. The Duterte Administration is clearly against influence peddling in government as President Duterte himself ordered government agencies to reject self-serving requests from the members of his immediate family and relative.

Finding the truth about the alleged lobbying of Director Cam and holding GM Balutan and Chair Corpuz accountable for the actions on the Christmas party issue are necessary for the current Administration to succeed in cleaning our government.