Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today called for a Senate investigation into the internal squabbles among officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to shield it against private vested interests and sinister machinations by some quarters.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 578 yesterday, De Lima underscored the importance of safeguarding PCSO's mandate and shielding its operations from improper influence and interference from personalities with vested interests, let alone dubious reputation.
"PCSO is a government-owned and controlled corporation tasked to raise money and provide funds for health programs, medical assistance and services, and charities of national character for the underprivileged. [Its] image should not be tarnished and its operations affected by the internal politics of the high-ranking personalities in the agency," she said.
De Lima noted the internal squabble at the PCSO came after PCSO new board member and former jueteng whistleblower Sandra Cam questioned the agency's alleged lavish Christmas party last year with purported budget of P9.8 million.
Based on reports, however, PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan said the approximately P10-million budget cited by Cam was not entirely spent by the agency. He explained PCSO only spent P6 million to finance the venue, food and the raffle and performance prizes for employees during the agency's Christmas party.
Relaying her thoughts from Camp Crame, De Lima said: "Dapat talagang imbestigahan yung sinasabi ni Sandra Cam na diumano'y 'lavish' o magarang Christmas Party ng PCSO. Pero, dapat rin imbestigahan yung akusasyon ng kabilang panig - nila GM Balutan at Chair Corpuz - sa diumano'y 'personal agenda' at 'demolition job' ni Sandra Cam dahil sa pansariling interes para mahawakan ang STL operations sa buong bansa. Hindi puwedeng one-sided lang ang imbestigasyon. Let's be fair here."
De Lima added: "Kasi kung totoo yung mga sinasabi nila GM Balutan at Chair Corpuz, dapat tayong mabahala. Napakahalaga ng mandato ng PCSO dahil nakakatulong ito sa mga proyekto para sa mga mahihirap. So hindi puwedeng nahahaluan ang mga gawain nito o nasisira ang mga operasyon nito dahil sa pakikialam ng mga personalidad na may kahinahinalang karakter at hindi mapagkakatiwalaan. At hindi dapat binibigyan ng puwesto sa gobyerno ang mga ganyan, mga shady characters katulad ni Sandra Cam."
While she said that the issue of supposed lavish Christmas celebration requires scrutiny and must be looked into, De Lima maintained she finds Balutan's counter-allegation more alarming and disturbing.
According to her, "like any other government agency, the image of the PCSO should not be tarnished and its operations affected by the internal politics of the high-ranking personalities in the agency, and neither should it be used as the milking cow of the current powers-that-be, through the abuse of official position and authority to control STL operations under the PCSO for their own personal benefit and that of their principals."
"Institutional integrity emanates from the individual integrity of an agency's officials - bearing great weight that such positions of power be given to persons who possess untarnished reputations and who govern their lives by high moral standards," she said.
Citing Article XI Section 1 of the Constitution, De Lima reminded that all "public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice and lead modest lives."
Likewise, she cited Section 2 of Republic Act No. 6713, also known as the "Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees," to remind them that it is the policy of the State to "promote a high standard of ethics in public service."
It may be recalled that Balutan claimed that Cam is only making false accusations targeting PCSO officials to "get the agency's top post" and help her friend, known gambling lord Charlie "Atong" Ang, to monopolize Small Town Lottery (STL) operations nationwide.
Balutan claimed Ang had tried but failed to get approval for his STL bid during a meeting that Cam requested with PCSO Chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz last year.
In her Resolution, De Lima also cited the importance of looking into a previous claim of Ang linking Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and now adding Balutan and Corpuz, to an alleged plan to assassinate him last April.
Incidentally, both Cam and Ang have been linked to jueteng in the past. In 2010, then Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago revealed that Ang is one of jueteng kingpins in the country while in 2005, Cam claimed that she personally delivered jueteng payola to the offices of the Arroyo.
Cam, who considers Ang as "friend," then implicated Mikey Arroyo, son of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Iggy Arroyo, brother-in-law of PGMA, as having benefited from jueteng operations.
Source: Senate of the Philippines