Press Release
July 20, 2016

To avoid repeat of GMA case, Recto files bills putting all
PCSO funds into health, away from Palace hands

With the Supreme Court's dismissal of the charges against former President Arroyo for illegally diverting PCSO funds, Senator Ralph Recto has filed bills in the Senate placing state lottery income "beyond the reach of the most powerful person in the land" by earmarking it for health.

In four "remedial measures" which Recto said "would rationalize and depoliticize the use of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) income," the senator sought the automatic remittance of the multi-billion-peso PCSO Charity Fund for the "purchase of medicines, improvement of hospitals and attainment of universal health care."

"The idea is to transform the Charity Fund from a discretionary fund into a fund with a fixed beneficiary. If it is permanently consigned for a set of activities, then the temptation to tap it for other purpose, no matter how worthy, will be gone," Recto said.

Under the law governing the PCSO, 55 percent of its gross income is set aside for prizes, 15 percent for operations, and 30 percent for the Charity Fund.

In 2015, the latter reached P9.6 billion.

Presently, any disbursements from the Charity Fund must not only be authorized by the PCSO Board of Directors but must also be approved by the Office of the President, Recto explained.

While the Charity Fund "has indeed helped millions of Filipinos," accessing it, Recto said, "requires the sick to queue for assistance in many PCSO offices."

"PCSO becomes some sort of a medical panel, performing a kind of 'triage' which assigns how much help will be given to an applicant," said Recto.

This work, he said, "is best left to hospitals which can equitably allocate the resources based on merit and sans palakasan."

Recto said the PCSO charter and other laws give Malacañang "wide latitude" in funding other activities. "The task before us is to depopulate PCSO of its many mandates and go back to the basics - which is to help the sick, the needy and the poor."

Recto said the "PCSO empire" grosses P100 million a day. The agency reported gross receipts of P37.4 billion last year.

Of this, almost P30 billion came from lotto; Small Town Lottery contributed P4.3 billion; "Keno" added P3.4 billion. Traditional sweepstakes chipped in a measly P57 million.

Thirty percent of PCSO's gross receipts constituted its 2015 Charity Fund of P9.6 billion. "However, total payout from this fund reached P15.3 billion last year as there were other recipient agencies," Recto said.

According to Recto, PCSO also gave P28.3 million to Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation; P43.3 million for the National Shelter Program; P159.7 million to the National Museum; P483 million for the purchase of ambulances; P1.03 billion "against SARS and Avian Flu "; P289 million to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), among others.

In Recto's proposal, "mandatory contributions authorized by law" will be retained, "so agencies that rely on PCSO assistance can continue with the good work they are doing."

"But there is also the possibility that, during the legislative debates, the number of agencies with entitlement will be pruned, given President Duterte's earlier announcement that he wants all PCSO fund spent for health," Recto said.

If such would be the consensus, Recto said he will bat for a large chunk of PCSO funds to be used to help cancer victims.

"One in every ten registered deaths in the country is attributable to cancer. 16% of the total of 50,000 reported cases of breast cancer in 2010 resulted in death. Twelve Filipino women die of cervical cancer each day with 6,000 new cases being diagnosed each year," Recto said.

"Chemotherapy per session is in the six figures. Equivalent to the annual income of the poor. Yet PhilHealth can only extend help to a few," Recto said.

"In 2015, PhilHealth was only able to provide Z benefit package to 63 Leukemia patients; 517 breast cancer sufferers; and 20 prostate cancer patients. Clearly, PCSO can provide reinforcement," Recto said.

Recto said another area which PCSO money can go a long way is in stocking up pharmacies of 71 Department of Health-run hospitals and medical centers, and 777 hospitals run by local governments.

"Kulang ang pondo para sa gamot. Pwedeng sagutin na ng PCSO yan. If that happens, then what we will have is a good sweepstakes-for-the-sick program.

In Senate Bill (SB) 60, Recto wants the PCSO Charity Fund earmarked for universal healthcare and improvement of PhilHealth's benefit packages while the other bills propose that these be used to upgrade public hospitals.

In a separate measure, Recto defined the new regime in utilizing PCSO's Charity Fund while respecting the existing revenue share of LGUs and other government agencies."

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