By Bernadette D. Nicolas M& Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz @joveemarie
FORMER Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) General Manager Alexander Balutan resigned, and was not fired by the President, Malacañang clarified on Monday.
Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo explained in a statement the resignation letter was formally received by the Office of the President “only after the Palace has already announced his cessation from office.”
“We wish to clarify that former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office [PCSO] General Manager Alexander Balutan has indeed tendered his resignation through a letter submitted to the Office of the President,” Panelo said.
Nonetheless, the Palace said the existence of serious allegations of corruption in the PCSO needed action.
“Mr. Balutan resigned out of delicadeza because of, as we have said, serious allegations of corruption in the PCSO. He has requested the President for a fair and impartial investigation to ferret out the truth on the matter,” Panelo said.
“We hope this sets the record straight on the timeline of what transpired,” he added.
On Friday, PCSO Deputy Spokesperson Florante Solmerin said Balutan resigned due to “personal reasons.”
However, Panelo issued a statement then that Balutan was fired.
The chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusements on Monday said the panel is now studying the charges that could be filed against PCSO officials in light of financial and legal issues hounding the agency.
Following the recent joint hearing of the House Committee on Games and Amusement and House Committee on Public Accounts, Rep. Gus Tambunting, panel chairman, said the PCSO is not managing its funds well.
According to Tambunting, the committee report, to be released soon, will include the charges against involved officials.
“The PCSO must safeguard its revenues and must be more prudent with its finances because it is an important source of funds for the government’s programs,” said Tambunting.
Tambunting, citing a Commission on Audit (COA) report for 2017, said the PCSO failed to collect P4.049 billion from 71 of PCSO’s Authorized Agent Corporations (AACs)—the entities operating the Small Town Lottery (STL).
“PCSO should be held accountable for its failure to protect government interest. That is P4 billion which could have been used to help the poor all across the country,” Tambunting added.
For his part, Balutan had admitted at the House hearing the figure of a P2-billion presumptive monthly retail receipts (PMRR) from STL.
However, he said some of the operators cannot comply with the PMRR requirement.
“We have different areas, there are areas where the STL is really weak. You cannot compare their PMRR,” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.
Nonetheless, he said the PCSO Board has already cancelled the contracts of some operators for failing to comply with the PMRR.
Balutan also said there are pending charges against STL operators for not remitting their PMRR.
“We have collected P485 million—combination of interest and soft payment,” he told lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Tambunting said the committee has directed the PCSO to submit a list of their accounts receivable.
At last week’s hearing, Balutan said the PCSO does not formally keep track of accounts receivable (AR) as its financial statements are based only on actual sales.
“Under the tax rules, pag na-recognize ang sale, automatic within five days magkakaroon kami ng 20-percent documentary stamp tax [DST], and we have the situation na magbabayad tayo ng DST, wala naman tayong hawak na pera. ’Yan ang dilemma ng PCSO,” Balutan said.
“That’s why we are saying the certainty of collection will arise only upon receipt…. Remit cash and credit the sale so it will show in our financial statement. Pag nag-book tayo ng AR without the collection, ang lalabas sa balance sheet, overstated ang AR,” he added.
According to PCSO, the agency has P5.2-billion receivables as of February 2019.
“With this, we have to pay P1.1- billion DST. We don’t have money to pay…. We will end up negative,” he explained.
But Tambunting said, “It’s absurd how the PCSO does not include accounts receivable in its financial statements” and reminded the PCSO to make proper records of its finances.