De Lima: Probe gov’t officials involved in gambling operations

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Senator Leila M. de Lima has asked the Senate to look into the accusations that some members of the Duterte administration and high-ranking military officials are purportedly involved in the operations of small town lotteries (STL).

De Lima filed proposed Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) 359 urging the Senate Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation to probe the alleged links of administration officials in the STL operations.

“Allegations of corruption involving Cabinet and other high-ranking government officials should be investigated with utmost urgency and scrutiny in order to protect the integrity of public office and ensure public trust in government,” she said.

Gambling tycoon Charlie “Atong” Ang has earlier claimed that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon want to eliminate him so they can control STL operations in certain provinces in the country.

Ang alleged that Aguirre is working with his brother, Engineer Ogie Aguirre, in taking over STL operations in Southern Luzon provinces, including Laguna, Batangas and certain Bicol provinces. Aguirre is also the concurrent head of the government’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling.

He also reportedly accused Esperon for working with other high military officials in controlling STL operations in northern part of Luzon, including Pangasinan.

The former justice secretary noted that STL, a grassroots-based lottery and charity which is managed by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) was designed to stamp out the illegal numbers game, also known as jueteng.

She cited PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan’s avowal to stop illegal gambling which he said has been “the scourge of this country for the longest time, spawning corruption in different agencies and levels of government.”

The Senator from Bicol said she believes that existing laws covering small town lottery and government conduct are now insufficient to curb these anomalies, and must be amended through this probe.

“Existing laws, particularly Republic Act (RA) 1169, or the PCSO Charter, and RA 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, need to be amended in order to incorporate a wider and more inclusive scope of jurisdiction as a response to the ever-changing political landscape in government service,” she said.

“With the culture of patronage continually evolving, Section 7 (a) of RA No. 6713, which only states that ‘public officials and employees shall not, directly or indirectly, have any financial or material interest in any transaction requiring the approval of their office’ no longer suffices in admonishing public officials against committing certain irregularities whether penalized by law or not,” she added.

De Lima noted that this is not the first time the President’s men have been hounded by such controversies. She added that such irregularities must be looked into by an independent body like the Senate.

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
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