Text by Mylene C. Orillo
Photo by F. Zaff S. Solmerin
Tarlac Representative Noel Villanueva commended Philippine Charity Sweepstakes (PCSO) officials for the record-breaking increase in the Small Town Lottery (STL) revenues and for not accepting “bribe” money.
“Mr. Chair, I would like to manifest my commendation to the officers of PCSO now. Yung 14 provinces at one city na originally na nabigyan ng AACs (Authorized Agent Corporations) – Tarlac from P23 million to P56 million, ‘di ba ganun ang increase sa Tarlac? That is because of the PMRR (Presumptive Monthly Retail Receipt),” said Villanueva during the House Committee hearing on Games and Amusement.
Records show that PCSO-STL made history by generating P15.7-billion revenue in 2017 (P1.3 billion/month), from mere P4.7 billion (P392 million/month) a year in previous administrations, a gargantuan 143 percent increase.
Villanueva disclosed that he received information that upon the assumption of former PSCO chair Jose Jorge Corpuz and Balutan, they were offered a huge sum of money in exchange of disallowing PMRR.
Balutan confirmed the information, but he didn’t receive the offer.
“Never in my life your honor,” Balutan answered.
“Kaya ganun po ang paghanga ko sa PCSO – kay Gen. Balutan and its former chairman, Gen. Corpuz. They were offered millions of pesos and yet the two generals refused the tempting offer. Kaya saludo ako sa ’yo, Gen. Balutan. Ituloy mo ang trabaho mo sa PCSO,” said Villanueva.
Who offered the money?
When asked by Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo to reveal the personality who offered the money, Balutan said it was Mr. Atong Ang.
“I would like to reiterate the offer of Charlie “Atong” Ang. He is offering P200 million per month for the STL operation of the whole country,” said Balutan.
Balutan said Ang went to his office sometime in September 2016 with PCSO board of director, Sandra Cam claiming, they were sent by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Sabi niya, ako ang mag-iisip ng formula pero I’m offering P200 million a month for the whole operation of STL,” said Balutan, who later brought Ang and Cam to then Chairman Corpuz.
“’Pag isa lang po ang nag-monopolize nito, walang PMRR, wala tayong usapan na percentage (If only one person will monopolize the STL, no PMRR, we won’t have any percentage to speak of),” said Balutan.
Immediately after the incident, Balutan reported personally to the President and asked how he would solve the Ang problem.
“He told me: Do not bend your rules. Just follow your rules even if it involves my son,” Balutan said quoting the President.
Said incident has a photo and CCTV footage as proofs.
Present also in the hearing, Cam categorically denied Balutan’s claims.
Duterte and Ang are friends?
Cam bragged before the committee that the President and her gambling lord friend are very much knew each other.
“Atong Ang and President Duterte are friends. The P200 million Atong was talking about was the total amount of STL revenues on a daily basis,” Cam said.
Before he took off to his recent state visit in India, Duterte confirmed he called the attention of the gambling lord right after he was proclaimed winner in the 2016 presidential race to warn him to stop his illegal gambling activities in Davao City where the latter was planning then to put up a jai-alai game.
This meeting with the President was now being used by Ang and Cam to hype in the media about their supposed intentions to help PCSO.
Cam said that during their recent trip to Bicol, the President admitted that he asked Ang to go PCSO. She also said that it was even Duterte’s close aide, Bong Go, who told her to accompany Ang to meet the PCSO officials.
It was during this meeting in September 2016, a day after Balutan and Corpuz reported to their new positions as general manager and chairman, respectively, that Ang made the P200 million offer.
But during the Congress hearing, Cam denied it.
It can be recalled that sometime in June 2017, PCSO had reported the tremendous increase in STL sales to more than P1 billion. Ang immediately countered the agency was “bloating” its revenue because he said it was only up to P600 million.
In November 2017, PCSO declared STL revenues had already hit P1.7 billion, Ang countered the agency was supposed to collect up to P6.5 billion.
But in his interview with Noli de Castro’s dzMM radio program on January 31, Ang lowered the STL revenue to P5 billion.
Balutan had challenged Ang and Cam to produce P6.5 billion STL revenues in three months and he would resign.
Balutan, a retired Marine major general, spent 37 years in the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC). He survived more than 50 combat encounters and four ambushes against the enemy of the state.
A member of Philippine Military Academy “Matikas” Class of 1983, Balutan is one of The Outstanding Philippine Soldier (TOPS) Awardees in 2011.
“I am no politician. Neither am I a brownnoser or “sipsip”. I am not one who does or says things for a sinister reason or personal gain. I am just a humble soldier who fought in the mountains and jungles of Mindanao for many years in defense of our people and our republic from external and internal threats. I have tempted the gods and gambled my life in the field of battle numerous times so that peace may reign in the land. I have also faced devil and crossed swords with him in the area,” he said.
Plucked out of retirement
Months before he reached his mandatory retirement in 2016, Pres. Duterte had requested Balutan to retire early because he said he needed him to clean-up the drug-laden Bureau of Corrections (Bucor).
But his appointment to Bucor did not push through because the President saw more in Balutan as a “berdugo” (executioner) to clean-up corruption in PCSO, specially to his all-out war against illegal gambling in the country.
“I was plucked out of retirement by our President to be the General Manager of PCSO on September 13, 2016 mainly to professionalize PCSO, rid it of corrupt personnel and improve the delivery of the medical and health services to the indigent Filipinos,” Balutan said.
Balutan said he will carry out the order of the President no matter what the consequences.
“I owe that to the President. I shall not fail him and the countless indigent patients who look up to PCSO for deliverance,” he said.
“I shall guard the PCSO with my life if necessary, against those who might want to destroy it so that they can take over our gaming operations at the expense of the PCSO and the people. I will not allow it. Not while I’m around,” he added.
Balutan carries the moniker “Mandirigma” (warrior) in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dismissed the continuing negative media campaign by some radio stations who obviously sided with Ang and Cam.
“I expect my detractors to heighten and deepen their PR (press relations) campaign against me. Twist the facts. And if that doesn’t work, invent the facts,” he said.
Balutan said that “at the end of the day” truth will prevail and his detractors will be defeated or perhaps self-destruct.
“Truth to tell, I’m not used to ‘Acoustics War’ where battles are lost and won in the media. I can only shield myself from the malicious, self-serving propaganda by turning to my performance in helping streamline the operations of the PCSO, transparency and accountability in the discharge of my duty,” he said.
He warned his detractors of his resolve to continue the battle he had started in PCSO.
“I shall not hesitate to unsheathe my sword again if only to slay the ‘Draculas’ and the ‘Predators’ of this world, and to protect the PCSO and its gaming operations that provide life to thousands of our indigent patients,” he said.
“More importantly, I will not and cannot allow my detractors to tarnish my reputation that I have painstakingly built without a good fight,” he added.
Balutan said, “I have seen the enemy, they are us,” quoting the words of Japanese Admiral Tojo who was one of those who led the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II.