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STL earning ‘billions’ for the country’s poor

“The Small Town Lottery [STL] is earning billions for indigents.”

This was the bold pronouncement of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) General Manager Alexander Balutan in a recent message to Davao Oriental Gov. Nelson Dayanghirang in connection with the local official’s comment to regulate STL operations in his province.

“We strengthened the law by crafting new Implementing Rules and Regulations [IRR] that breaks the monopoly of gambling lords who do not pay taxes [and who]continue to undermine the government and corrupt the many,” Balutan said.

He and Jose Jorge Corpuz were appointed to the agency by President Rodrigo Duterte in September 2016. Corpus is now the PCSO chairman.

At present, there are 92 approved Authorized Agent Corporations playing STL nationwide from just 18 in the previous administration.

Of the 92, 82 are operating while the rest are yet to start, hopefully before the end of this year, according to the PCSO.

Earlier, Dayanghirang said STL outlets had mushroomed in the province and had been indiscriminately placed near schools, churches and along the highway.

The proliferation of STL outlets, according to the provincial government, “encouraged the culture of gambling among residents while adversely affecting the province’s image.”

But Balutan said the STL is responsible ga­ming unlike jueteng (an illegal numbers game] and its variants that promote unregulated and excessive gambling, which, he added, has been the source of corruption.

He explained that jueteng has become a way of life for Filipinos since Spanish time. Past administrations attempted to stop it but to no avail.

“Since everybody was in agreement that it can’t be eradicated, Congress passed a law in 2006, Republic Act 1169, to regulate [this]illegal numbers game through the STL,” Balutan said.

“Without the STL, local government officials failed to stop the proliferation of the illegal numbers games in their areas of responsibilities, and now they question the presence of the STL outlets?” he added.

Balutan pointed out that the STL is becoming a very potent instrument in the battle against jueteng, swertres, masiao and other forms of illegal gambling.

“Now, illegal gambling lords are crying,” he said.

“The gaming now is very transparent, not rigged, earning billions of pesos for the indigents,” Balutan added.

In October, the STL earned P1.7 billion, from P1.5 billion in September. Its revenues could go as high as P15 billion by the end of November.

Balutan said 30 percent of the income of the STL operators go back to them in terms of charity services aside from the many jobs (kabos, kubradores, etc.) legally created for them estimated to be more than 600,000 nationwide, earning P6,000 to P7,000 monthly.

“These employees are those who cannot be qualified in normal job fairs [because of]lack of education, people with disabilities and [who are old]and often vulnerable to committing various crimes specially drug use or trafficking,” he added.

“Certainly, the PCSO will continue to regulate the STL, especially the number of outlets, as it progresses,” according to Balutan.

While acknowledging concerns and issues raised by the government, he said the PCSO is always open to criticisms and suggestions on how to better implement and manage the STL operations.

“If you have a pragmatic solution to all of these, I am very willing to listen,” Balutan added.

Meanwhile, he instructed the province’s branch manager, Virgilio Enrique Abanilla, to make more consultations with the provincial government and mayors to fine-tune the operation of the STL.

“The PCSO will make the necessary adjustments in the operation,” Abanilla assured local officials.

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