In the wake of allegations involving the misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds, Senator Franklin Drilon on Friday reiterated his long-standing proposal to privatize the PCSO as well as the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
He said government should not be directly involved in lottery and casino operations and should limit itself to being a regulatory body that protects the interests of the betting public.
In a radio interview, Drilon said lotto and casino operations now being undertaken by PCSO and Pagcor should be bidded out to the private sector in an open and transparent process and government should retain its licensing and regulatory functions over these operations.
“The government only becomes a regulatory agency. The government should not be directly involved in gambling operations. Leave that to the franchisee. The franchise holder will pay a definite amount to the government not based on sales but on the amount of the bid. That is the fee regardless or whether or not the franchise holder makes money,” Drilon said.
With this set-up, he added, government will now collect fixed and definitive franchise fees that can be used to implement a wider, better-financed and more comprehensive health care program for poor Filipinos.
“I am calling for the immediate privatization of the operations of PSCO and Pagcor so that these allegations of misuse of funds and resources can be avoided,” said Drilon, noting that government intervention in lotto and casino operations was no longer necessary.
“What government must do is bid out these PCSO and Pagcor operations properly and collect fixed franchise fees that go directly to the national treasury,” Drilon said. “That way, Congress can allocate these funds to implement a universal PhilHealth program that actually falls under the mandate of the PCSO to provide medical assistance to indigent Filipinos.”
Drilon suggested that the privatization of PCSO and Pagcor can now be done through the implementation of Republic Act 10149 or the GOCC Governance Act of 2011 which he authored and was signed by President Benigno Aquino III into law last Month.
Under the new law, a soon-to-be-created Governance Commission on GOCCs (GCG) will recommend to the President, after careful study and evaluation, the possible abolition, merger or privatization of state-owned and controlled corporations such as PCSO and Pagcor.
Drilon said once PCSO and Pagcor were privatized, government can concentrate on seeing to it that operations are done properly “in order to protect the interest of the betting public and ensure that government gets a fair share of the income generated.”
Drilon, who is the Senate finance chief, had earlier said he was in favor of the proposed privatization of casino operations in the country but said the Pagcor should retain its licensing and regulatory functions.
Drilon noted the present set up where Pagcor serves as both the licensor and operator of casinos was anomalous because of conflict of interests. He noted that in other jurisdictions such as in Las Vegas and in Macau, the government agency concerned only issues the necessary licenses and regulates the gambling operations.