A matter of courtesy

A loud, collective gasp filled the session hall of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last Friday when an official of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) told the legislative body sitting as a committee of the whole that the issue of small town lottery (STL) operations for Around D’World Gaming Corp was just being presented before it “as a matter of courtesy.”
It stunned senior members of the Sanggunian like board members Licurgo “Curging” Tirador and Demetrio “Demy” Sonza who rightfully took the statement as an insult to the legislative body.
The statement incensed Tirador, who immediately accosted PCSO Visayas operations manager Willian Medici if he had heard the latter right. Apparently, the statement sounded very much like the whole process was a mere formality in the eyes of PCSO.
Realizing that he had committed a grave blunder, Medici mumbled an apologetic explanation that it wasn’t intended as such.
But the phrase “a matter of courtesy” was a presumptuous act of arrogance on the part of PCSO, and glaring evidence that these officials, along with Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. and provincial administrator Dr. Raul Banias, considered the matter of Around D’World Gaming Corp.’s application a “done deal”.
It doesn’t matter much that nine out of 10 resource persons who spoke before the SP committee of the whole expressed strong opposition to allowing small town lottery, and not just Around D’World Gaming Corp., to operate the numbers game in the province.
Defensor and Banias will make sure the arguments against allowing STL into the province will be swept aside just to accommodate Around D’World Gaming Corp., for this is a business deal they had with jueteng lord Jose Francisco Gonzalez and Jose Pidal, a.k.a. Iggy Arroyo.
Indeed, the question must be asked: how and why did Around D’World Gaming Corp. manage to obtain a “midnight franchise” to operate STL in Iloilo province on May 19, 2010 before it could get a favorable endorsement from the local government unit?
For five years, nobody had gotten a PCSO franchise simply because the Iloilo provincial government under Governor Niel Tupas Sr. refused to approve it. In a split-second maneuver, these guys circumvented the rules and rushed approval of the franchise while Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was still President of the Republic.
After all, as early as May 12, Defensor was already governor-elect, and he assured the Gonzalez-Arroyo combine it was okay to proceed. There was a deadline to beat: June 30, 2010. That was when a new board would assume office, and they could no longer curry favors from PCSO. For them to wait for Defensor to formally assume the top seat at the Capitol would have been too late.
Defensor is telling everybody the province has no choice because Around D’World Gaming Corp. already has a franchise. He’s wrong. The new PCSO board cancelled the award of the franchise and required Around D’World to secure the requirements of an endorsement from the Sanggunian and the governor before its franchise can be acted upon. Technically, it has no franchise to speak of.
But then again, of course, it’s a done deal as far as Defensor and Banias are concerned. They will cajole Tirador and Sonza to forgot they heard those words, “a matter of courtesy”, from the PCSO officials. They will sweep all opposition under the rug and proceed with the business they want to bring to the province to make their old master happy, and reap the rewards of their favorable endorsement for the project.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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