City Council's nod on lottery sparks controversy in Butuan

Pueblos said in an interview that the entry of gambling should not be left for the legislators alone to decide but must undergo a “wider grassroots consultation” because the people are the ones to be affected. 

“Whether we like it or not, STL is still gambling in itself. We cannot earn livelihood through gambling,” Pueblos warned as he explained that the principle of gambling is “you gamble only with your extra money.”

The city council’s committee on laws chaired by Councilor Audie Bernabe recommended the resolution’s approval. Only one voted against it during the floor deliberation during the council’s regular session.

Lawyer Lawrence Fortun, an opposition councilor, said the resolution did not reflect the sentiment of the people. He pointed out that the only the way to ascertain that sentiment is through a public consultation which in this case was not done.

“I vigorously objected since it did not pass a public hearing,” Fortun told MindaNews, complaining that his colleagues apparently employed short cut methods in passing the resolution. “My objection was ignored. They have the numbers,” he added.

Efforts to contact Bernabe, author of the resolution, proved futile. But Councilor Salvador Calo, chair of the city council’s committee on public safety, said there’s no need for a public consultation since the resolution is only expressing “no objection” to the operation of STL, not the approval of a franchise to operate in the city.

Calo said a franchise holder cannot operate the STL in the city without securing the approval of the Philippines Charity Sweepstake Office (PCSO) in Manila.

“It is not like a tax ordinance that needs a committee hearing,” said Calo in a radio interview, adding that the tax to be generated from STL operations would be used to fund the city’s social service and police operations. 

Under Resolution 464 dated December 28, 2005 approved by the PCSO board, a franchise holder of STL must have a minimum capital stock of P20 million of which at least P5 million should be paid up.

After receiving approval from the PCSO, the authorized corporation is required to deposit a P10-million cash bond to the agency’s treasury department within 15 days.

Aside from requiring the company to submit government-imposed documents such as tax clearance and registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the applicant must also present a comprehensive curriculum vitae of its officials “showing their qualifications, integrity and experience.”

Carlito Kho, PCSO’s regional manager for Mindanao, said his office will only coordinate with a franchise holder for their operation after getting its approval from the PCSO’s head office in Manila. He agreed that before approving the operation of an STL, a public consultation will have to be conducted.

Kho, whose office is based here, said the STL is a two-ball draw and to be performed in public viewing. Other state-sanctioned gambling now operating in Butuan City includes lotto, bingo and sweepstakes. (Alden Pantaleon / MindaNews)