Bichara slows down STL ‘closure’ threat: Wants to consult local execs before sending letter to PRRD
By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara has put on hold the letter asking President Duterte to suspend the company operating the Small Town Lottery (STL) in Albay saying they are still consulting with local chief executives and stakeholders about the fate of the state-sanctioned gaming operation. Bichara in a phone interview last week assured that the letter request for the suspension would be received by the President this week after getting the sentiments of the different town and city mayors of Albay regarding STL operations in their respective areas. “I have referred this matter to the province legal counsel to put up strong legal issues that would convince Pres. Duterte to grant our request for its (STL’s) suspension,” Bichara said. Lawyer Joel Rubio, the provincial legal officer, told Bicol Mail that the letter to the President would highlight the killing Monday last week of Alex German Alemania, president and chairman of the Lucky V Prime Enterprise Inc. He was shot while inside his van with companions by suspected hired gunmen from Batangas province. Rubio said the proposed letter to be sent to Malacanang will also present details and documents that would prove the Lucky V Prime Enterprise Inc. failed to carry out the stipulated provisions in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) signed between the gaming firm and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). Bichara in his draft letter wrote: “The senseless killing instilled fear and anxiety on the inhabitants of Legazpi City and constituents of the Province of Albay. The reprehensible incident is counter-productive to our on-going socio-economic provincial development programs, particularly the sectors of tourism and investment.” Alexander Balutan, PCSO general manager, in an earlier interview confirmed the ongoing corporate dispute involving members of the board of Lucky V. Rubio cited that in a meeting on Nov. 14 this year held at the Philippine National Police (PNP) regional office here, heated arguments ensued among members of the board of Lucky V. According to Rubio, Alemania earlier wrote a letter to Nelly Loyola, the PCSO head in Albay, informing the latter of the changes in Lucky V’s organization and operation. These changes include: the removal of Engr. Alexander Javier as member of the board of directors and as corporate secretary and Donato Umali as corporate treasurer due to “disloyalty to the Corporation.” Alemania subsequently appointed Atty. Mark Del Rosario as interim corporate secretary of the corporation. Rubio said Alemania in that same letter also informed the PCSO head that he [Alemania] was forming a Management Team that he would head to oversee the operations of the corporation. Bichara has also asked AKB Party List Rep. Rodel Batocabe to bring the matter to the House Committee on Games and Amusement. Bichara said a formal investigation on the STL operation in Albay was set on December 5, this year. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay has passed a resolution as early as August 2, 2017 asking the PCSO to cancel the franchise of Lucky V for the latter’s failure to comply with the agreements stipulated in the STL Implementing Rules and Regulations. In that resolution, the SP claimed that jueteng, the illegal numbers game, still remains to exist in the guise of STL as one cannot distinguish jueteng “bookies” from legitimate PCSO authorized STL bet collectors. Sources said these so-called jueteng “bookies” and STL bet collectors are one and the same persons where jueteng bets are collected unperturbed because the bet collectors actually possess STL paraphernalia and IDs. The SP has also expressed disappointment over the scarce share that the PCSO remits to the respective local government units following STL’s 6-month operation in the province under the new administration. Under the PCSO Presumptive Monthly Retail Receipt (PMRR), Lucky V as STL franchisee should have collected P77M in gross monthly draws. Of this collection, 55 percent goes to prizes, 30 percent to Charity Fund and the rest go to operations. Lucky V operates STL in the 15 towns and three cities of Albay. It holds three draws a day with hundreds of sales representatives supervising thousands of bet collectors in 720 barangays in Albay.