MANILA – The Philippine National Police has closed down 21,173 lottery stores in the country after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a ban on gambling due to alleged corruption within the state regulatory office.
PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde made an appeal on Sunday night to gambling venues operated by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to voluntarily suspend activities should authorities fail to arrive with the closure order.
Police officers shut down facilities over the weekend after Duterte ordered on Friday night the immediate closure of premises operated by PCSO, which he accused of “massive corruption.”
According to Duterte, PCSO contracts – whose funds are supposed to go to charities and health programs – were “all cheating and the contracts were like crafted in favor of corruption and to favor other corporations and people. I will not allow it.”
“I will not honor any order from any court stopping us or enjoining us to stop our desire to go into a massive investigation for the massive corruption that exists in the PCSO,” Duterte said while announcing his decision.
In March, Duterte fired PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan for alleged corruption in light of a congressional investigation into irregularities at the state charity.
The current PCSO general manager, Royina Garma, said that the agency will comply with the presidential order, but urged him to reconsider his decision as the lottery generated huge revenues.
In 2018, the PCSO – established in 1954 – had a record revenue of 63.5 billion pesos (more than $1.1 billion), 20 percent higher than the previous year.
The state lottery was launched in the mid-2000s to eradicate a popular illegal game among the working class known as “Jueteng,” the income of which was allegedly widely used to bribe police and politicians.
In its first year it earned more than 3 billion pesos and generated 62,500 legal jobs for poor workers that survived on Jueteng.