“I NEED a killer for that position,” President Rodrigo Duterte is reported to have declared when he decided to designate retired general Alexander Ferrer Balutan, general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). Although his immediately prior position was Director General of the Bureau of Corrections, Balutan was Commander of the AFP East Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) when prevailed upon by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to leave his unexpired military term in order to sit as chief of the corruption-ridden BuCor. (Remember the illegal drugs syndicate that was exposed as being conducted right from the sanctum sanctorum of the Muntinlupa prison?) He has gone that high in the military ranks as AFP regional commander, and this should make him best fit, according to President Duterte’s criteria, to head the evidently more corruption-infested PCSO. From as far back as his stint in the Philippine Marines when he was Commander of the 7th Marine Battalion Landing Team, Balutan has earned the moniker Mandirigma, a reputation which among Marines continues to stick to this day – and which should suggest much of the kind of “killer” General Balutan is.
True enough, General Balutan made a sweeping cleansing of the PCSO of its many ills as soon as he took over the helm of the agency. As a result, there has been a marked improvement in its functions.
Here is what the Sunday Times Magazine has reported as General Balutan’s immediate success in the assignment.
“In just over three months since assuming office on 13 September 2016, Balutan reported that STL earnings have already gone up by P1.7 billion [from P4.7 billion to P6.4 billion]with the expansion of Authorized Agent Corporations (AACs) from 18 to 56. Despite criticisms surrounding STL, Balutan simply goes by the law approved by Congress regarding operations of the numbers game as early as 2006. To those who say that the PCSO is not authorized to conduct STL, he cites Republic Act 1169, which explicitly mandates that the agency has the sole authority to conduct lotteries.”
“‘Those in Congress opposed to the STL may just be turning a blind eye as we were able to hit the nail on the head. Paano kasi maraming (You see, there are many) oligarchs in Congress as what President Duterte said, who have been involved in illegal gambling like jueteng, masiao and last two,’ he said with a chuckle.
Then suddenly came Cam. Sandra, of course, the lady who at one time in the past created waves for her sensational exposé of the illegal numbers game called jueteng. President Duterte appointed her to the board of directors of the PCSO.
Normally, I would treat the appointment as just one of those things, sensational celebrities getting into the good graces of the appointing power. In Cam’s case, I take it with serious alarm. I remember a joke among reporters when a senator was being reportedly considered for appointment as head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). The joke went: “Appointing Senator XXXXX to the PDEA is like putting Dracula as head of the blood bank.” In like manner, I certainly am tempted to say that making Cam chair of the PCSO is like seating Atong Ang in the post.
In Cam’s case, however, it is no joke.
According to an informant, Cam is buddy-buddy with a Camsur person called Alex Tang, who has yet to surface as a name in the firmament of jueteng but has in fact been in control of the illegal numbers game in Bicol – co-equal with and partner of Atong Ang in the trade. My informant further claims that from the time Cam made her sensational exposé on jueteng, developments have been such that instead of whistleblowing on the lords of the game, she’s turned to whistle-sucking, whatever that means.
At any rate, it was very ominous when at the start of the Balutan administration of the PCSO, Cam, cozying up to him, brought Atong Ang with a proposal for Ang’s nationwide operation of STL.
Evidently the two utterly underestimated the character of Alexander Ferrer Balutan – reared by his Master Sergeant father on strict military discipline and underwent the rigors of military training at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) where he imbibed its cardinal tenet: “A cadet does not steal, does not lie, does not cheat, nor tolerate any of these three.”
It is not at all the character of General Balutan which Cam questions by raising that issue of what she calls “extravagant” Christmas party. It is all about STL, the Small Town Lottery which, as an allegory, has been effectively shielding the Blood Bank from rapine by Draculas.
“The operation of STL actually curbs corruption as ingress has been increased to 200 percent a month, when it used to be only 10 percent. Illegal gambling is being eradicated in the process as AACs need to meet the set ingress or their authority to operate will be revoked. With this move, more AACs mean more employment too,” says General Balutan in the same Sunday Times interview.
The STL is the one single neutralizer of jueteng. In the interest of Atong Ang it has to go. But under Balutan it just is a no-go – which must have been crystallized to Cam and Ang when they made a “courtesy call” on General Balutan in 2016. And so, the next best move is for Balutan to go.
Hence, Cam to the job. First, she gets herself seated as PCSO board member. Once there, she gets rid of the sitting chair, Jose Jorge E. Corpuz, and finally gets herself put there instead – all to Atong Ang’s great content.
Hence the expose on the so-called ostentatious Christmas party thrown by the PCSO. That was obviously calculated to damn Balutan. But here’s a lowdown on the matter. Granting there is truth to Cam’s allegation that P6 million was spent for the affair, that’s no big deal when reckoned that that was spent for more than 15,000 PCSO employees, or P4,000 per head.
It really is just a case of making a mountain out of a molehill in order to implement an evil agenda.
It behooves President Duterte to see through this design. If the government is to succeed in its anti-illegal gambling campaign, get, in a manner of speaking, the Draculas out of the blood bank.